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November 2013

by Mary Ann Kelley
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Instead of Curriculum, Thanksgiving, Art, Citizen Science, and More

From the Editor

I hope your school year is going smoothly and fall is finding you encouraged and energized. For those encountering rough seas this year, I’ll share something here that I posted on our Facebook page a few days ago:

Watching Walking Dead (yes, I’m a huge fan) and there was a quote on a sign in the prison that said ‘Smooth seas do not make good sailors.’ If your seas aren’t smooth right now, know that they are making you a better homeschool parent. Be encouraged… this too shall pass.

We have some great content for you this month, and I’m very excited about our featured article. We’ve been doing a series on the blog called Instead of Curriculum, and “Citizen Science” fits right in with that theme. Julie West, a science teacher at Oak Meadow, shows you a cool way your kids can get involved with real world science right at home.

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New free download available for subscribers: We offer newsletter subscribers first dibs on our downloads, and we have a new one for you this month. We just put the finishing touches on Buying Your First Car: A Workbook For Teens and it’s ready for download. So many resources are for young ages, and we are pleased to offer this fantastic workbook for teens. Buying a car is excellent opportunity to learn how to evaluate any major purchase decision, not just based on the item itself but also on the long term cost of owning the item. The workbook covers both aspects of the purchase and will help teens understand the bigger picture of purchase decisions.

We have a new subscriber download area where you can access Buying Your First Car: A Workbook For Teens, so you’ll need to enter the email address with which you are subscribed to this newsletter along with the password morningcoffee to access the download. If you are not a subscriber yet, you can subscribe here.

Have a great month, and enjoy the newsletter!

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Kelley


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Teaching Calendar

November 2, 2013 — North Dakota Admission Day – 1889

November 2, 2013 — South Dakota Admission Day – 1889

November 5, 2013 — Election Day

November 6, 2013 — Abraham Lincoln elected – 1860

November 8, 2013 — Montana Admission Day – 1889

November 11, 2013 — Veterans Day

November 11, 2013 — Washington Admission Day –

November 11, 2013 — WWI Armistice Day – 1918

November 13, 2013 — Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial dedicated – 1982

November 15, 2013 — Lewis and Clark Expedition reached Pacific Ocean – 1805

November 16, 2013 — Oklahoma Admission Day – 1907

November 19, 2013 — Gettysburg Address – 1863

November 21, 2013 — North Carolina Admission Day – 1789

November 27, 2013 — Hanukkah

November 28, 2013 — Thanksgiving Day

November 29, 2013 — Louisa May Alcott born – 1832

November 30, 2013 — Mark Twain born – 1835

View the entire calendar »


Educational Resources

E Is For Explore

Erin Bittman is a graphic designer pursuing a degree in elementary education, resulting in a blog that is full of unique learning activities presented beautifully. Mostly geared towards elementary ages, the posts are tagged and organized so that you can click on links in the sidebar to view the activities for specific topics. From simple ideas like using animal crackers to illustrate the food web to downloadable worksheets, the site has hundreds of ideas in science, math, art, language, and seasons/holidays.

Thanksgiving Interactive: You Are the Historian

“In this fun, award-winning activity, kids take on the role of ‘history detectives’ to investigate what really happened at the famous 1621 celebration. (Hint: It was a lot more than just a feast!) Along the way, they’ll read a letter written by an eyewitness to the event, learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks, and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home. As a final activity, kids can design and print their own Thanksgiving exhibit panel.” From Plimoth Plantation’s website, the Thanksgiving interactive also offers a Teacher’s Guide (it is readable but does have some issues with the character set not rendering properly). A download of the interactive is also availablenear the bottom of the main page so that you can use it offline.

What to Draw and How to Draw It

This free book download is an easy to use art resource for any age. Similar to the Draw Write Now series in its instruction style, the 78 page publication breaks down drawings into simple shapes that add build upon each other to create more complex drawings. Kids will enjoy drawing the many animals featured, but there are also instructions for drawing people and a few other subjects. You can preview the book online at the link above, then download the file in PDF, Kindle, ePub, or Daisy format.


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Recent Blog Posts

Instead of Curriculum

TheHomeSchoolMom: What To Use Instead of CurriculumEveryone has a comment on the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I talk to people about homeschooling, they frequently mention the availability of “so much curriculum these days,” as if that is the single most important factor in being able to homeschool. Non-homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and new homeschoolers seem surprised that many homeschoolers use learning materials that are not, strictly speaking, part of a homeschool curriculum. There are many reasons why people use other learning resources instead of curriculum. Read more »

Instead of Curriculum: D’Aulaires’ Mythology Books

D'Aulaires' Book Of Greek MythsSome of my favorite children’s books are also wonderful learning resources you can use instead of curriculum. Among these are the oversize children’s classics about mythology by the d’Aulaires. The D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and the D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths delighted all my kids when they were pre-readers through their late elementary years, and I found that the understanding of mythology they learned from these books persisted through their middle school and high school years, when they needed to spot and comprehend literary allusions to mythology. Read more »

Homeschooling With… Not Just Mom

Homeschool Help: How bringing in others can helpA lot of us start this homeschooling thing thinking that we’re going to be Super Mom. Yep, we begin the journey starry-eyed and inspired — optimistic that we will be able to single-handedly teach our children and lovingly usher them into academic excellence and emotional and physical competence.Then life happens. Read more »

Fun Fall Homeschooling Activities With Leaves

TheHomeSchoolMom: Fun Fall Activites with LeavesI know that for many people, it is the advent of Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks that officially signals the beginning of fall, but I tend to be a traditionalist. Yep — cool weather and sweatshirts, homemade beef stew and apple spice muffins… the harbingers of my favorite season of the year. And although farm visits, […] Read more »

Featured Article

Citizen Science

by Julie West, Oak Meadow Science Teacher

Citizen Science: You be the analyst

Citizen Science: How YOU can get involved in real science!

There is a new craze hitting the streets, and hopefully this one is here to stay. It’s called citizen science. With the advancement of technology, smartphones, and instant data retrieval and input, it has become easier and easier for “regular” people to do real science.

So much of science research is the methodical, sometimes tedious, collecting of data. When you read scholarly scientific articles and reports, it is not readily apparent how much time went into collecting that data. Not only time, but often infinitely monotonous hours of recording time in seconds, counting, observing, watching, etc. And then sometimes the technology breaks down. Cameras freeze up in the Arctic. Animals shed their radio tags, data cards go bad, or electrical systems short out. My daughter, whose research entails recording whale sounds, had a hydrophone in the ocean for seven months. With excitement, they went to retrieve the appliance, only to find that something had fried inside and they had only three weeks of data. There goes another season!

The fieldwork is the fun part! Now we have to go back to the office or lab, do more observations, and then spend days and weeks at the computer, entering data, collating, interpreting… And then we have to go back out there and do it again, and again, and again, because as any scientist knows, the more samples that are studied, the more validity there will be in the results.

You Be the Analyst

Why not get some help? The old answer was, “because it costs too much, and we have no funding.” Now we have a new answer: Yes, let’s! There are people everywhere interested in contributing to science, especially if it’s made easy for them. With citizen science, it is. Citizen science is rapidly gaining acceptance in scientific circles. Not only do citizens collect and report data, but they are becoming valuable helpers in analyzing the vast amount of data that is now available due to increased technology.

For example, here is a project where you can help identify what is on the ocean floor. We have technology to take millions of pictures, but who is going to look at all these pictures? This is something you can do at your leisure. Read the rest…

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