Category Archives: Middle School

Motivation – Blogging Through the Alphabet & Middle School Monday

M motivation

Motivation

It is quite an intimidating word sometimes. How do you provide motivation? I don’t mean the “do it or else” kind of motivation. I am talking about the internal motivation that causes one to move forward on a project or assignment without someone else getting involved or reminding.

Motivation comes from within. While I like to think that I have some influence over it, I don’t. My middle schoolers (I kind of feel like I have two now that the school year is almost over and Miss L will officially be a 6th grader shortly) are independent thinkers, as they should be. They have hopes and desires and wills and frustrations that are all their own. They will do what I ask them to because it is right to do what your mother says but that isn’t really motivation, is it?

I have been pondering this motivation thing for a while, trying to find the right balance of curriculum choices made by me and made by the student. It is difficult. Do I push math in a day when their motivation has been to work diligently on history for 3 hours? Do I make the student add more to a research paper when she has written two full pages on research that she did that all-in-all took only 30 minutes from start to finish but is well-written and interesting to her? Do I have a child re-do work that is substandard in handwriting but excellent in content?

Where do you push and where do you give grace and allow for it not to be a high quality project?

Boy, do I wish I knew the answer to this!

What do I actually do? I figure it out from day to day and from week to week. This last week, I asked for more on that research but I didn’t push the math issue. Why each of those? Well, if you saw the concentration and intensity with which the history project was being pursued, there was a deep interest that was being fed. I don’t want to mess with that. Math will still be there later and she will work at it when I do choose to insist.

But the research, I felt like she needed more of a challenge. So the next day, I took that research project that I had invisioned being most of a week’s worth of writing and added a different element to the research, a different perspective and had her do some more. Of course, she loved it, spent a good bit of time reading through the websites I pulled up for her, and then wrote double the amount requested. So, she has now breezed through the assignments I expected to take two weeks in two days. What next? Well, her internal motivation is good to get it done so I guess we will just feed it more with a new research project. I have some ideas . . .

All of this rambling is to say, I think if I can continue to find a few ideas that spark an independent motivation, an internal motivation, in at least a single subject area, then we are on the right road. Right now, we have that mix going. I wish we could expand it and we’ll keep trying but for now, I will be happy with what is working and deal with that which is not getting done.

At Home.

This week’s Middle School Monday post is also serving as last week’s Blogging Through The Alphabet post since last week was incredibly busy.

Please visit A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes – Middle School Monday

bluebonnets & indian paintbrushes

One is never too old to study legends to go along with the every day. So this week, we are delving a bit into Texas history through bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes. These beautiful flowers flourish in Texas this time of year.

Last Friday, we took a field trip to bluebonnet fields and spent the day relveling in the beauty of large fields of flowers. These flowers are the quintessential picture of Texas for many people and the legends that go along with these flowers are beautiful. They show love for community and acts of self-less-ness.

So, this week, we are going to pull out The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Both of these legends are interesting and beautiful. No only do we learn and revisit these stories but we will learn a bit more about the people who created these legends.

Some of the possible activities we will do:

  • creating art work
  • reading the books
  • writing our own retelling of the story or doing a video of our retelling of the legends
  • illustrate the legends
  • research the flowers
  • science lesson on labeling plants (more for the youngest giggly girl)
  • research the Comanche tribes and Plains tribes
  • define legends
  • create a lapbook on the story
  • create a lapbook with character traits and relate to other characters (perhaps Biblical?)
  • create a doll similar to the one in the legend
  • create paints from berries and other things we can scavenge
  • revisit teepees from previous studies
  • take a look at drought – what it is, what it does to the land
  • study sacrifice
  • geography study – look at Texas, Wyoming, the plains, bordering states, etc. on a map

Yes, these are very generic ideas that will come to fruition as we decide on which activities to explore more deeply and which ones to not include in our learning at all this time around. We revisit ideas as we explore topics and books and stories and subjects that we find interesting or different.

This is one of the lovely things that we sometimes forget about our schooling – we don’t have to cover it all in depth because things will come around again and we will learn more the next time. So, my goal with these books is to give the oldest giggly girl, who is in 7th grade, more freedom to explore her areas of interest with the book on her own and create a presentation for her sisters. The middle giggly girl (5th) will probably do a couple of the simpler topics and join with her younger sister in others. The youngest giggly girl (2nd) will be working with me to delve into some things that she either hasn’t done yet or needs to revisit in a more in depth way, such as the plant labeling.

I challenge you to pull out a legend, or any story really, and find some related activities to do and see if the connections don’t help the information stick.

At Home.

Tell a Fairy Tale – Middle School Monday

Recently, our library hosted a contest for Tell a Fairy Tale Day. The actual day was Feb 26 this year. The older two giggly girls decided to enter a fairy tale into a contest that was held. We utilized that as  writing lessons for part of that week. This was a fun and simple way to engage the girls in some creative writing. The instructions were simple: write your own fairy tale in the space provided and turn it in. They were encouraged to add an image to go along with tale.

I enjoyed their fairy tales and both of them were awarded honorable mentions. I thought I would share their entries, since they were pretty short.

Miss L, age 10

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a king and queen, whom were named King William and Queen Adalaide. Together, they ruled wisely, and were fair and just in every needed advisement. They were rich in all but one thing, which was a child, which they wanted very much. Then one day, the Queen had a healthy, pretty little girl, and the whole kingdom erupted into celebration that stayed on for a week. The princess had skin like porcelain, hair like the midnight sky, eyes like sapphires, and lips like rubies. And only grew fairer every passing day. But then came the day she turned sixteen, which was the age the crown was handed down to the heir. Before the princess could become Queen, she needed to have a husband. So she set off on a quest to find a prince but none she visited seemed right. Finally, she came to a little island called Lilitia. There she met a girl named Lewana, who was looking for her brother who had run away from home. The two girls quickly become best friends and decided to quest together. The next day, the two friends came upon a large town and agreed to hail one another if they found what either was looking for. And so they set off. Soon the princess came upon a large inn, with many inside. One man in particular caught her eye and they fell in love on first sight. He said he was a prince, and the princess summoned Lewana. Lewana took one look at the prince and ran to embrace him because the prince was also Lewana’s brother. They all went back to the princess’s castle and lived happily every after.

Miss E, age 12

Once upon a time, just past the sparkling waterfall and the shining rainbow was a city of pixies. They were led by a single brave pixie named Joyce. Joyce was a curious pixie and one day she wandered out of the forest and into a house where a little girl sat reading a book outside.

Joyce flew up to the girl and said, “Hi! My name is Joyce. What is yours?”

The girl dropped her book in surprise. “C-C-Crystal. Are you a fairy?”

Joyce frowned. “Why do people always think that? No. I am a pixie. Do you need a friend?”

Crystal’s mouth dropped open. “How did you know? I do need a friend. It is just me and my mom here.”

“My mom and I,” Joyce corrected. “Why don’t you come to my city? Humans used to visit us. Not anymore though. But we have a human-sized house.”

“Oh, Oh, Thank you so much!” Crystal yelled, jumping up and down. She and her mom went to live with the pixies and they all lived happily ever after!

Such a fun way to incorporate creativity and writing into our week! I love it when things come out so simply and the girls are able to participate in community activities like this. Did your library have a Tell a Fairy Tale Day? Do they often do fun activities to get involved with? I highly recommend friending a librarian and making visiting a library part of your regular homeschooling activities if it is at all possible. Our librarians are fantastic and definitely add so much to our unit studies.

At Home.

Ice Cream – Blogging Through The Alphabet

I Ice Cream

(Because I am slow on getting some things posted, yet again, I am combining the Middle School Monday post with my Blogging Through the Alphabet. Enjoy!)

Working through the Apologia Astronomy curriculum has given us a number of fun opportunities. One of the labs that was suggested was making ice cream. We could not ignore that experiment/lab!

The purpose of the experiment was to see the how chemicals (in this case – salt) could create a cooling effect. This was in relation to the gas giant planets, specifically Neptune,  that are cold not only because of the distance from the sun but also because of the chemicals in the atmosphere.

Ice Cream Making

The experiment was fun and tasty but there are a couple of things we would recommend in regards to it:

– Do it outside if at all possible; this is messy and salt water on some floors is not good

– Perhaps use a small plastic jar or container that will hold the liquid and put it in the large zipper bag with ice and salt. Trying to get ice cream out of a zipper bag that has salt all over it is difficult and salty ice cream is not my favorite.

All in all – a super easy and very tasty way to see the effects of chemicals mixing to create a lower freezing temperature.

At Home.

Join the ABC blogging group hosted by A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

A Net In Time Schooling
My ABC Posts:
H – How to let go?
I – Ice Cream
J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

WASP WWII Museum – Middle School Monday

WASP field trip

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were a group of women who did great service for the United States and its Allies during WWII. After the men had left for war, there was a great hole left and these women trained to fill that hole. Over the course of the years, over 1800 were accepted into the training program and about 1100 graduated, going on to serve on various bases around the US.

The WASPs ferried aircraft around the country, served a tow-target gunnery pilots, some as test pilots, and in various other capacities. They flew military planes though they were only recognized as civilian pilots. Over all, they flew over 60 million miles in 78 types of aircraft. These aircraft went from the smallest trainers to the fastest fighters and the heaviest bombers of the time. 38 WASPs gave their lives during this time.

In 1977, the women pilots were finally recognizes as WWII veterans. In 2010, their contribution to the war was recognized with a Congressional God Medal.

Sweetwater, TX, and Avenger Field is home to the WASP WWII Museum. In a 1929 hanger set on a hill, there is a small collection of interesting displays highlighting and honoring these women and all that they did for the war. The museum admission is free but they won’t say no to your donation. We also purchased a book titled “We Were WASPS” by Winifred Wood with drawings by Dorothy Swain, both WASPs.

We found the example of the barracks very interesting – one of the girls kept commenting on the cots they slept on. We saw examples of the types of transmitters and other communication boxes. We viewed a memorial to the women who lost their lives during the WASP program. We read about Jacqueline Cochran, who began the WASP program (interesting story and background!). We were able to view a film about the program with footage from Avenger Field. The girls sat in one of the trainers, or simulators, that were used and there were handprints from some of the WASPS along with their biographies. We were able to see pictures of many, if not all, of the graduating classes and textbooks that they used.

It did not take more than an hour to dawdle our way through the museum but we did enjoy it quite a bit. I had been wanting to stop since we pass it every time we make a trek to New Mexico. I am glad we were able to make the stop this time and enjoy this bit of history.

At Home.

Ancient Greece ~ a Crew review

ancient-greece-review

History is a favorite topic around the three giggly girls and the opportunity to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece from Home School in the Woods was one we were more than happy to ask for.

Home School in the Woods is a company we have reviewed for in the past so we are well acquainted with the high quality of their products and the information they include. When you choose a product from Home School in the Woods, you are getting something that has been thoroughly researched and well written, with illustrations that are classic and realistic as well as accurate. Home School in the Woods is the family business of the Pak family. Headed by Amy Pak, the history products are packed full of learning through timelines, maps, reading, listening, and creating. A true hands-on product, Home School in the Woods brings history to life. HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece is a combination of a timeline project, learning through hands-on projects, and reading historically accurate information about a time period. Throw in some crafts and a lapbook and you have the gist of Project Passport studies. We were sent the link to download the study and it downloaded a zip file. We then unzipped that and following the instructions, it opened the study in a web browser. From there, it is easy to open each time and to navigate through the study.ancient-greece-opening-page

Once I had the study opened in the browser, I spent a little bit of time getting familiar with the project and reading the Introduction, Travel Tips, and Travel Planner. I then printed the binder information for Miss E, the student who was going to be traveling to Ancient Greece through Home School in the Woods. I also printed off all that was needed for the first two stops.

Each lesson in Ancient Greece is labeled a stop. Each stop has several parts to it. There are 25 stops in the entire study. Most stops include timeline work, writing something for the newspaper, a postcard from a famous person related to the theme of that stop, and some minibooks or activities associated with the theme. A few of the stops include an audio tour, as well. Some of the stops have taken a couple of hours but most stops are less than an hour. It all depends on how artistic and creative your student desires to be with each part of the stop.scrapbook-of-sights

So far in the stops, Miss E has visited Athens, Sparta, learned a bit about the Archaic Period, Greek Government, and everyday life in Ancient Greece. These are the first 7 stops. Miss E is working on stop 7 at this time. We are averaging just over one stop a week, with each stop broken up over a couple of days. Other topics still to come include: farming, business, and transportation; education, oration and literature; science; medicine and disease; the arts; philosophy; religion; and warfare. Each topic has readings and activities to really help you get into and learn about history and the people.map-work

There are some things that we really, really like about the HISTORY Through the Ages programs.

  • They are rich with well-researched history and cultural information.
  • The activities are so widely varied that the interest in continually renewed.
  • The program is so well laid out that it is easy for me as the teacher to get what the student needs without having to spend a lot of time fumbling through files. However, if the program didn’t open right or something goes wrong with it, I can still access each of the printable files from the zip folder.
  •  It is easily adaptable for the student. If they don’t do well with writing, you can leave out the newspaper or assign it in a different way. If they don’t like to draw, you can just have the student read the postcard; they don’t have to illustrate it. If a mini-project is too difficult or really not interesting, you can skip it because there is so much more in each stop. Adapt and change to meet the needs and interests of the students – key quality!
  • The timeline is thorough and full of information. This alone makes the program a very good investment. If all the student did was read the guide book and do the timeline, a very good knowledge of Ancient Greece would be gained.
  • The activities are fun.
  • The audio “tours” are lively and interesting.
  • It is easy for the student to self-pace the program so I don’t have to be hyper-focused on which piece she is working on each day.
  • While it takes quite a bit of printing and paper, it is used to create a final product that the student will be proud of having created.

timeline-and-more

As far as dislikes, there just aren’t many. I do wish there were an easier way to get started. The first two stops are labor intensive because you are setting up so many of the projects that will be added to or worked on throughout the entire project. From the timeline to the maps, these things take a bit to set up. But, they are very worth it as you add to it and work with it throughout each stop. We do have a wish to see the Postcard Rack redone. It just doesn’t hold the postcards. Miss E created a page with a little envelope on it where she places the postcards after she has designed them. That works much better for her and she doesn’t lose the postcards this way. But that is it!

Miss E says, “It is a fun way to learn about history.” When asked about her favorite parts, she said that the Snapshot Moments (timeline) and postcards are her absolute favorites but that she really likes all of it. Some of the newspaper articles are hard to write but others are easy and fun and she really enjoys doing the illustrations. All in all, she gives this two thumbs up and thinks that lots of other students would enjoy it as well.

Home School in the Woods has a wonderful set of learning programs with their HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study. Whether you choose Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, or Renaissance & Reformation, there is much to learn and enjoy.

And as a note of interest – Home School in the Woods is working on Ancient Rome, which is scheduled for release in 2018!

At Home.

You can also read our review of Ancient Egypt.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about the other places you and your students can visit with the HISTORY Through The Ages programs. Just click on the image below.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

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Language Exploration – Middle School Monday

language-exploration

Have you ever had opportunity for your students to explore different languages or different ways of writing languages? Our local museum has a room that focuses on languages. Well, a few very select, very different languages. And Miss E loves exploring that room every time we go to the museum.

hieroglyphics-table

Heraldry, hieroglyphics, and pictography are the main three languages to explore here. These are not your typical “languages” but that is part of what makes these explorations so interesting. With information on their uses and templates to help you write, these languages are fun and different.

heraldry

Each time we go, Miss E sits down and writes something using each of the languages. Whether it be her name or designing a shield with heraldry symbols to describe who she is, Miss E spends a lot of time absorbing and using these languages.

 

On the wall, we see this:

letters-chart

Last time we were in the museum, Miss E spent a very long time copying down much of this chart. She found it interesting to look at the changes of the letters. She also really enjoyed seeing the letters for the Greek alphabet since she is studying Ancient Greece. She found it so interesting that she copied it carefully and added it to her Ancient Greece notebook. (The review for this study from Home School in the Woods will post today, as well.)
pictography-chart

From the many typewriters to an old-fashioned printing press to a telephone operator’s booth, there are lots of ways to explore languages that are not just studying Spanish or German or even sign language. Language is using words and symbols to communicate. And this room broadens our understanding of that.

At Home.

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