Category Archives: Education

Summer Activities are Education, Too

(This post contains affiliate links. If you follow a link and make a purchase, our family may receive a small commission from your purchase.)

“Life is learning and learning is life.”

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I was given the opportunity to share a bit about how our summers look by the Homeschool Review Crew during their weekly series titled Spotlight on the Crew. Our summers are spent in learning. Some of it happens here at the house, like it does during the “school year.” But a ton of it happens in the summer through other opportunities. There are great benefits to these activities.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read my post on Education Through Summer Activity.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

How can you turn your kids’ summer play into fun learning experiences? Join SchoolhouseTeachers.com to enjoy courses like Let’s Do Art OutsideCamping with JesusWeb Game DesignPhotography, and Wonderful World of Bugs, plus hundreds of additional PreK-12 courses and all the resources you need to create a quality, individualized homeschool plan for each child. During the May Flowers sale, you can get access to all SchoolhouseTeachers.com has to offer for only $99/yr (code TOTEBAG) or $9.95/mo (code UNDERTEN), and your rate never increases. PLUS, get a free tote in your choice of color and a copy of the Summer 2011 anniversary edition of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine when you select the annual membership option.* But hurry, because this deal ends on May 31, 2019! *free gifts US only

 

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IXL for online, individualized learning ~ a Crew review

When it comes to online learning, a personalized fit is key. IXL Learning has that personalization and came to us for review at a time when we were looking for some fresh ideas.

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IXL is an online program that requires a subscription, a computer, and internet access. We are using the full annual membership and that gives us access to all grade levels and all subjects. This is a really good thing for us since we have a student in late elementary, one in middle school and one in high school. There truly is something for each of them with IXL.

IXL is a comprehensive curriculum for the elementary levels in math, language arts, science, and social studies. What this means is that the subject and skill areas covered is comprehensive – everything you would need for those levels. It is comprehensive in math and language arts all the way through high school. Science and social studies are available through 8th grade. There is also a Spanish class to take that covered many areas of the language.

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IXL is not a complete curriculum in that it does not include the teaching necessary for students to understand the concepts/skills if they don’t already know them. A parent/teacher would need to be available to preteach or teach when questions are missed. In a previous review, this is how we used IXL and it worked well. We used it to teach the skills the girls needed help with as they went along. They also used it to practice those things they already knew or could pick up easily.

HOW IT WORKS

When a student is ready to work in IXL, they log in. Each student has their own profile but it is under a central login. The student then chooses which subject area they are going to work in. After clicking, say, language arts, the student then chooses the grade level to work on and the specific skill area within that subject. So, Miss J might choose math, grade 4, and patterns. It will then begin her work.

She will read and answer questions. As she answers correctly, the questions get progressively more challenging, requiring the students to think harder to get all the way through the question set. This dynamic system keeps the questions fresh and the student working hard at mastery. When a questions is answered incorrectly, the program gives them an explanation page. It gives the correct answer, the answer the student gave, and a step-by-step explanation of the correct answer. The student must read through that or have someone read and explain it to them. There is not a “read to me” option and there are no video explanations with additional examples to help grasp the concept.

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Each question set has a goal. For many it is to reach 100. For others it is to answer a certain number of questions correctly. As they near the goal, it becomes a challenge zone, which is a key to the student that the questions are getting more difficult and they will have to work harder.

Alternatively, there is a second way to approach using IXL. When a student first begins, they can take a diagnostic test. Each question on the test is designed to narrow down the skills the student needs to work on, honing in on specific areas. The more questions the student answers, the better the program can identify needs. This is very good. However, you need to know that ahead of time because it otherwise becomes the never-ending test. It doesn’t stop, as far as I can tell. It just keeps honing. You can just have your student stop after a certain period of time you choose or answer a chosen number of questions.

Once the diagnostic test is stopped, there are recommendations made for the student. These recommendations do change when a different child clicks into their account. If the child has not taken the diagnostic test, they will still receive recommendations based on what they have worked on. The child can choose to tackle the recommendations or just go on to what they want to work on. The recommendations include all subject areas.

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HOW WE USED IT

IXL patternsMiss J is 10 and working at a 4th/5th grade level. She is using the program mostly for math but also doing some science, social studies, and Spanish. She is using the program almost every day for her math. She works for about 30 minutes on math each day, which takes her through 2 – 3 skill areas. Once a week, I sit down with her to go through Spanish. This is more of a review for her at these early stages, working on letters, numbers, and such. It does eventually become more conversational but she has to learn to spell the Spanish words for things before we move too much further with it. In science, she is exploring the gems and minerals part of the topics about once a week. And she is working on the American History topics once a week with me, also.

Miss J loves that she is getting some little “prizes” when she reaches certain goals – answer 100 questions or spend 2 hours on math. I also receive an emailed certificate for each of those goals. I can print that out or just show it to her online.

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Miss L is in 7th grade. She has had some math topics that she has struggled with. We have used IXL math as a review for her. I have given her a list of topics/skill areas that I want her to practice. She gets on and work through that list. I have seen those skill areas, as well as her general attention to detail in math, grow through using IXL.

IXL Learning for history FBMiss E is in high school. She has been using IXL to work on some of the history topics that relate to the project she is working on. She is creating cards related to the big happenings in American history. She used IXL to see how her retention was and to challenge herself in her memory. She has looked at some of the math topics, as well. They are relating to her math book very clearly and so when she needs some review or extra practice on math skills for algebra, she can log in here.I

WHAT I LIKE

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I like that there are an abundance of topics and skill areas for the girls to work on. I like that there is something for everyone. I like the variety of question styles and answer options, such as the picture choices when working on minerals. And, I like that I can see progress.

There is a parent/teacher side to the site that gives you all sorts of diagnostic information. You can see how long any one student has worked in a given day or week. You can see the exact skills and questions they worked on. You can see if they need additional work. You can also see their progress. I like that this exists and can see how I might use it sometimes but I am not using it a lot. I do, however, see the benefits of this and am thankful it is there for those parents/teachers who want and need to see these for grades and planning.

All in all, there are some great things about IXL. It is a solid program for review or to work alongside an active parent/teacher. It is worth checking out.

If you are looking for a Spanish version of the site, there is one available. If you are in another country, it also possible for you to receive the site with the appropriate math skills for your area. It should redirect you automatically to the IXL site for your country.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

The Homeschool Review Crew had many families using IXL Learning for the past few weeks. Reading several reviews will help you understand more about the benefits and flexibility of this program. Please read more of the reviews by clicking the banner below.

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Natural History Museum ~ Mega Field Trip 2018

Mega Field Trip - Natural History Museum

In Washington, D.C., we made sure to visit the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. It is humongous museum packed full of exhibits. We knew it would be a huge hit for two reasons – minerals and gems and the live butterfly exhibit. Miss J – age 9 – and Miss L – age 12 – we excited for those reasons. We went to the Natural History Museum while At Home Dad and Miss E visited the Holocaust Museum.

The Natural History Museum has so many amazing parts to it to visit. A large elephant greets you as you enter the museum. From there, you really have to choose what to see. We went straight to the butterfly exhibit. It was an additional cost but well worth the price. We spent over an hour just watching the different butterflies. We learned the names of several and just watched them fly, land, eat, rest, and whatever else it is that butterflies do. Miss L is still very fascinated by butterflies so she was elated the entire time we were there. Her highlight was when a butterfly finally landed on her and rested there. Because photos were allowed, I gave her the camera and let her take as many pictures as she wanted. She loved that!

The blue morpho butterflies were just stunning. As beautiful as they were, though, I liked many of the smaller ones more. I particularly enjoy watching yellow butterflies. There were helpful attendants throughout the exhibit and they were pleased to answer any questions that they were asked.

While we were enjoying the butterflies, my sister-in-law was enjoying the medical exhibit that talked about epidemics. Totally not something I am interested in but right up her alley. So, we did the flying things and she did the germs. 🙂

We met up after that and visited the gems and minerals exhibit. The gems were stunning and I truly enjoyed their beauty. Miss J, surprisingly, got really bored, even looking at the Hope Diamond and crown jewels! When we got to the end of that exhibit and stepped into the minerals? She came to life. She absolutely was thrilled to spend time in the gigantic mineral exhibit. She enjoyed the hands-on part where a computer went through the different crystal structures, pointing out many of the minerals that are created by that. It was a wonderful way for her to learn more about what was fascinating to her. She would look around her and try to identify some of the minerals that were using what the computer was showing her.

We spent a very long time in the minerals, probably another hour. Then we got some lunch. It isn’t cheap to eat in the museums. However, the convenience can’t be beat and the food carts and such outside were not any cheaper
overall.

We spent the afternoon looking at many different animal exhibits. There was one that showed a whole lot of animals from different countries and their habitats. The taxidermy was interesting and the girls found some of the animals interesting. Of course, Miss J loved the giraffes. I thought the tigers were neat. From these very large creatures to some very small ones like owls, there were lots of animals to look at.

There was a dinosaur section but it isn’t fascinating for the girls so we did not spend much time there. The insect section behind the butterflies was short-lived for us. There were too many creepy-crawlies for us.

We visited the ocean exhibit that showed many of the creatures found in the oceans and described the different parts of the ocean. (It ended up being a great precursor to the Marine Biology class that Miss L is taking now.) There were some really unique animals they had exhibited from the different depths of the ocean.

There was so much more that we could have looked at. We could easily have spent a few more hours due to the amount of material there. However, we were museumed out for the day so we called it quits at this point.

Blessings,
At Home.

A Site With Something For Everyone: SchoolhouseTeachers.com ~ a Crew review

This review contains affiliate links.

If you have read much of my blog at all, the name SchoolhouseTeachers.com comes up a lot. We use this site for tons of different reasons because there is SO MUCH there. When you purchase an Ultimate Annual Yearly Membership, you have access to everything.

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What does this mean? For the single price (which is currently on sale for Crew followers! see later in the post for the code), you get access to every single thing on the site. This includes curriculum, review materials, printables, planners, meal plans, videos, encouragement, World Book, specialized sections for specialized needs, and tons more. This access can be for one person or for the entire family. The price does not change.

There are currently over 450 courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This ranges in age from preschool materials to those for adults. We are using things from all over the site, it seems like.

My high schooler enjoys using the Daily Writing and This Day In History writing prompts. She uses these every day and follows those prompts. She has a notebook full of interesting writing samples because of the variety of materials there. She doesn’t write every single day but when she does, there’s no stopping her. Today, she wrote over a page on Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Another course my high schooler is using is Speech. She doesn’t love this course but it has been a good one for her. She is working on it two days per week and some of the assignments take her several days worth of work. It is challenging, such as asking her to create and present on a product she would create after having her watch an episode of Shark Tank.

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She started off her chemistry class on SchoolhouseTeachers with Friendly Chemistry. She understands so much chemistry and she is really thriving with it.

My middle schooler is using Elements of Literature. She is currently reading and writing about Peter Pan using this course. A lot is packed into each of these lessons and she is now working on writing a story with the characters she has created over the past few weeks.

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The middle schooler is also using Drive Thru History American History for her current history explorations. The videos are solid information and she prints off the review sheet to go with each one. She prints it prior to watching the video so she can read through it to know what to listen for in the video. These are wonderful videos that teach so much.

My elementary student is using Daily Puzzlers. This is a new one for her to help continue the critical thinking she loves so much. The strategy for this is great for also challenging her spelling.

I am using one of the printable and editable planners to keep track of my girls education this year. It is wonderful to be able to print exactly what I need and to edit and personalize it to my needs. I pop it into a three-ring binder and can then add to or change as needed. From the weekly pages to the calendars and the monthly notes, this planner is just perfect for me.

Don’t forget that there are also some additional resources that you have access to when you become a member of SchoolhouseTeachers

  • World Book – There is an access code and link for members of SchoolhouseTeachers to be able to go to World Book online. There are spaces that are directed at different ages or topics. There is a search function and fabulous timelines. Readers, advanced non-fiction books, and more is all available for members of SchoolhouseTeachers.
  • Video Library – Members of SchoolhouseTeachers also have access to the wonderful video library. There are many videos that are related to the courses but Right Now Media access is also a part of this. There are well over 400 videos to be accessed. Parenting, faith, kids, science, history, and the list goes on.
  • Members Forum – This is a place where members can go to chat and encourage each other, ask questions, or get advice.

There is so much on the site that I felt like I should share, again, about this fabulous resource. If you haven’t yet, now is a great time to check it out. The price for Crew followers cannot be beat. I don’t know that I have ever seen it lower. Please check it out. I don’t think you will regret it.

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Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below and go read other reviews from Crew families, many of whom have been experiencing SchoolhouseTeachers.com for the first time. They have all found different parts of the site a good fit for their families and you might find that, too.

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Life Skills – painting

after painting

Life skills need to be taught. These can run the gamut, from cooking to laundry to maintenance to upkeep. We have finally tackled the painting of the kitchen after a leak last fall that required a new roof.

We involved our girls in most of the work and decisions, so that they will gain the life skills they will need later on.

When we were talking about paint colors, they we there and gave their input. We chose white for the walls. Cabinet color is still being decided on because we can’t paint those yet. But they see the samples up and add their two cents when we decide to remove one of them that doesn’t seem to be working.

They helped prep the walls and ceiling, from clearing out to cleaning and dusting to taping off.

They painted. And painted.

before painting

They helped choose light fixtures and then learned a bit about how to change out a light fixture, including where the breaker box is and what the switches in it mean.

light fixture work

They helped clean up and put things back into the kitchen.

And they accompanied us on fact-finding missions to the paint stores while we were figuring out how to do the cabinets when we have warm enough weather to be able to open windows while working or keep the garage door open while dealing with the cabinet doors out there. They will be a part of the cabinet work, also.

Do you include your children in learning life skills? What have they learned recently?

One of the events in the Lads to Leaders program is about home skills. For the girls, it is called Keepers (as in keepers of the home). For the boys, it is titled Providers. There are wonderful, necessary skills taught in each on, as well as the idea of serving others with these skills. I really like this program and all it is teaching. My girls worked on Keepers this year and did the section about food preservation. They had to get and put up 10 containers of a food, including giving one to someone who might need it – a widow or widower, a family who is struggling financially, a single person who might need it, etc. I wonder if painting would have fit under part of the Providers program (they can do one Providers activity, as well).

We will have time for that, though, as all three girls would like to update their rooms. One of the girls is going to downsize her items significantly so we can put a larger bed in her room and it can serve as a guest room as needed. Lots of painting will probably happen soon. So the life skills they learned will be coming in handy.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

 

Practice Monkeys – Live Violin Classes ~ a Crew review

miss j playing

Music has a way of opening up joy in your life and I eagerly await hearing my girls practice each day. Miss L, age 12, and Miss J, age 9, are both playing the violin and have been working with Practice Monkeys. The Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes is for live, online classes but there are many aspects to the program that make it exceptional. As you read through this, realize that this is a family subscription – one subscription for all students in the family!

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Practice Monkeys fills a niche that I have seen in the home education world but also in the world of music education in general. Not everyone has access to musical education and to find string education is even harder for most people. Practice Monkeys is a series of leveled classes that are taught live, with plenty of recorded videos to help with practice and instruction when a live class has to be missed.

practice monkeys on the computer

There are currently 9 levels of violin on the Practice Monkeys site. If you are not a complete beginner, be sure to connect with Mrs. Van Kleek to set you up in the right level. Each level meets for about 15 minutes, four days a week. The time for each level is different so it is necessary to find your level to know the class time.

These live classes form the core of instruction and without them, learning violin is extremely difficult. Live classes allow for correction and training that just cannot be done with recordings alone. When you attend a live class, Mrs. Van Kleeck can look at your hand position, your bow position, and help you make those necessary corrections. She can also listen to the sound and advise what might need to be done. For example, without the live class participation, Mrs Van Kleeck cannot advise a student when their bow needs more rosin or their finger placement is just a smidge off. Tuning is another place where attending a live, online class will benefit. When the tuning is off as a beginner, you don’t often hear it or recognize it.

These are the benefits that Practice Monkey gives a student. Live teacher input allows for immediate correction and attention to detail that makes the difference between getting frustrated and giving up and making noticeable progress and learning to play.

Along with the live classes, a subscription to Practice Monkeys gets you access to the Treehouse for your placement level. The Treehouse is where you find practice videos, tuning help, instrument help, printable sheets for the skills in your level, parent tips, practice sheets, and videos for the performance pieces required to advance. It is packed full!

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As with all quality instruction, there are times for assessment and a checklist to help the student advance. The Treehouse has a printable checklist for the parent so that they can do a pre-assessment to know when to schedule a live assessment with Mrs. Van Kleeck. The checklist is clear and the expectations are laid out nicely so the student knows exactly what needs to be done. Once the student can go through the checklist with the parent, it is time to schedule that live assessment. In the live assessment, Mrs. Van Kleeck meets one-on-one with the student outside of the regular class time to go through the checklist and determine if the student is ready for the next level.

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Each week, an email of reminders and helpful hints is sent out. This is a great way to not forget to plan your practice time. One of the reminders is to print out the student’s practice sheet for the week. These sheets help with remembering each aspect of the practice time and to also progress in a consistent manner with the classes, skills, and pieces being learned. There are always helpful tidbits in the email, as well as reminders about any schedule changes for holidays and such.

getting ready for an assessment

These Suzuki-based classes are just what the home school community has been looking for. They offer something that is definitely needed and Mrs. Van Kleeck does a fabulous job of teaching her students. As stated earlier, the classes meet four days per week because music students need this much practice. The classes go from absolute beginnner to the end of Suzuki Book IV. There are also now piano classes being offered that at this point go from beginner to the end of Suzuki Book One.

miss l playing

Interested? At this point, lots of questions may be running through your mind. Hop over to the FAQ page for Practice Monkeys and read up on what is there. If you still have questions or concerns, a form is available on that page to send Mrs. Van Kleeck a message. There are also samples of the recorded classes on the page. If the sample is not quite enough, you can request to attend a single class for free to see how it all works.

Do note – these classes are live and online so there are some things you will need to acquire for the class. Obviously, an instrument is needed. Sizing and rental information is available in the FAQ as well as more detailed information on the FAQ page. You will need a paid subscription to Practice Monkeys. You will need a computer with a microphone and camera that work, as well as an internet connection. This will get you up and running with Practice Monkeys.

I know I speak positively about a lot of things. I wish I could just continue gushing about this program, though. Truly, I think it is wonderful and such a needed program. I highly encourage anyone looking for string instruction, or piano instruction (though I have not seen this part of the program), to check out Practice Monkeys.

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There is currently a special going on for readers of this blog and the Homeschool Review Crew. A special price is available for those who sign-up to become part of the Practice Monkeys community before February 1, 2019. The special price will be yours for the lifetime of your subscription. Visit the special page to read more and sign up.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

There were several other Homeschool Review Crew families who also reviewed Practice Monkeys. Be sure to click on the image below to read their reviews.

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Riding the Wave of Unexpected Interest

Riding the Wave

Tonight we had a large wave of unexpected interest. (pun intended for those of you who know that we have experienced 48 hours of nonstop rain at this point and it is forecast for the next 7 days at least; also in light of the question we investigated)

In what, you ask? Well, floods. Flash floods in particular.

A friend on social media sent a message to ask if we are okay since there is some serious flooding to our southwest. We are fine but it brought up a discussion with Miss J about flash flooding. At Home Dad and I had very different immediate definitions of flash flooding. I grew up in the mountains and deserts where flash flooding came from rains up in the mountains and swept down through dry arroyos. He grew up in central Texas where the flash flooding he was familiar with had to do with debris jambs on rivers.

Question after question came and was answered as best we could. But it is hard to understand the dangers and damage of flash flooding when you have not seen them. So, At Home Dad went to YouTube. The search brought up some really interesting videos. And we watched. There was some excellent explanations on some of the videos, as well.

(Well – I was going to direct you to some of the videos we watched but it seems YouTube is acting up and won’t show me any videos right now. Maybe later?)

In the course of watching these, there were some videos that brought up sink holes. Of course, we had to go view those and see what sink holes were. Those videos were also interesting, though not grabbing for Miss J.

But guess what?

Yep. Another idea related surfaced that we watched – mega monster waves. Those really big things that I have been blessed to never see except on video. So, we watched several of those.

All in all, it was about an hour spent talking about waves and the power of water and how dangerous it can be. Video can explain when words just won’t do sometimes. It shows power and might and danger from a safe place. Lots of learning happens like this. Ride that wave. Engage in the conversation. Seek out those moments. They occur all the time but we don’t always intentionally deal with them.

In the process of trying engage these kinds of questions and interests, we will be making peanut butter and honey bread soon. You read that right – the question was asked after lunch today if you could make a peanut butter and honey flavored loaf of bread for sandwiches. So, we’ll try that out soon. Miss J had some really good ideas about how to approach it.

Blessings,
At Home.

Want to find more ways to support riding waves of interest? Join SchoolhouseTeachers.com. They have over 400 courses that can help you feed the interest of your students. (This is an affiliate link. If you click through and purchase, our family will receive a small commission.)

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