Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hearts for Home Blog Hop #88

Welcome to the Hearts for Home Blog Hop!

Every Thursday over 20 bloggers host the Hearts for Home Blog Hop
The blog hop runs from Thursday through Wednesday, so please be sure to stop back by and share your family friendly posts throughout the week! As wives and moms, our hearts are focused on our homes, and we all can use inspiration and encouragement from time to time! 
So please share your posts on topics such as: faith, homemaking, marriage, homeschooling, crafts, DIY projects, recipes, parenting, and anything else that can be an encouragement to someone!  

The most popular post from last week's hop was:

Curriculum Choices
from Monster Ed Homeschooling

I hope you'll play along and share your posts this week, and maybe you'll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links! Use the form below to enter your links. Please just kindly link back to this blog or display our Hearts for Home button in your post or on your sidebar.

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If you were featured this week, help yourself to one of our “I was featured” buttons to display on your blog!

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Happy Hopping!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interest-Led Learning for High School

{Read my disclosure policy}

My son is passionate about filmmaking, from script writing to directing to camera-operating. He started with a flip camera, then added a camcorder and a stop-motion animation program with a webcam.  He worked all summer one year cutting grass to save money for a "really nice" camera, and everything on his Christmas list was related to that (boom mic, lights, reflectors.) He now spends most of his free time writing scripts -- pages and pages of scripts. Because of his passion for the art of filmmaking, I decided to craft an interest-led learning elective course for him for high school fine arts credit.

Stop Motion Animation

My son has already produced both live-action and stop-motion movies to the delight of all of our family members (grandparents make an especially appreciative audience.) Stopmotion Explosion: Animate Anything and Make Movies- Epic Films for $20 or Less has been a great jumping off point into the live action stuff that he really wants to do.

For part of his literature/language arts and elective studies, I scoured the internet and other avenues to find resources to fit into our curriculum. It hasn't been easy to find resources appropriate for teens, but I have managed to put together some things that are working so far.

Free Resources

Educational guides and lesson plans for movies such as Because of Winn Dixie, Hoot, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, Holes, City of Ember, and more are available as free downloads from Walden Media. We have used these guides along with the novels and the movies as "going beyond the book" studies.

We also found resources for teachers and students at, including screenwriting, animation, visual effects, cinematography, and more. Although I don't have any filmmaking experience, I've been able to piece together enough resources to help my son pursue his interests.

Film Curriculum

I've found some filmmaking books and curriculum as well, such as Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts and Movies as Literature curriculum from Design-a-Study. These are the base for our coursework, with all the other above-listed resources as supplements to this course.

The Movies as Literature course is an intensive study of movies as short stories. This program is not just about watching movies. Each movie studied includes 25 discussion questions, including topics for compositions and extended activities with either reading assignments, history research, or other movies related to the one being studied. Movies include both classic and modern selections, including ShaneThe Quiet ManRear WindowThe Maltese FalconE.T., The Philadelphia Story, and several more. For Shane, we read the novel before watching the movie, then the topics studied in this lesson included:
  • Character development vs. stereotypes
  • Film techniques
  • Plot development
  • Character motivation
  • Foreshadowing
  • Setting
  • Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Underlying messages about:  what makes a man, what makes a hero, whether or not the end justifies the means, whether 'A man who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,' the positive contributions of God-fearing families to settlements in new territories.
The student workbook isn't required for the program, but I bought it so that I could make notes in my book and my son could have his own book to follow along in as we discuss the material.  Although this is a high school level course, a child strong in language arts could easily use this for eighth grade.

Enthusiasm for Learning

Above all, I want my kids to be excited about learning. If I can incorporate their interests into our curriculum, a huge plus to homeschooling, they are more enthusiastic and motivated. I love it when they ask me to "do school."

I'd love to hear what you do for interest-led electives in your homeschool!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Embracing the Teen Years

{Read my disclosure policy}

First steps, first words, first birthday . . .

We celebrate these milestones and look forward to them from the day our children are born. The teen years seem so far away, but they arrive before we know it.

Many homeschool parents look upon the teen years with dread. They worry about how they’ll teach more difficult subjects, how hard it will be to keep track of grades, and [gulp] Driver’s Ed. Unfortunately, some parents believe that they cannot even continue to homeschool the teen yearsWhat if my teen is weird and unsocialized for life?

I’d like to reassure you that:

1. You can teach more difficult subjects. When my oldest was in kindergarten, I began having the inklings of doubt for his high school years. Algebra and upper level science scared me to death. A funny thing happened, though. As my son grew older, he also grew to become more independent. I don’t have to do the algebra and science; HE does. I am here to help him, and I coach him and facilitate lessons, but the real work is up to him. And, thankfully, there are plenty of wonderful homeschool materials out there that make these subjects not only doable, but interesting and even fun.

Some math curriculum is computer based, with a virtual teacher to lead the student through the lessons (DIVE CDs for Saxon and Teaching Textbooks). Dr. Wile’s Apologia science texts are written to the student, so I really only have to help by gathering materials for experiments and discussing the study guide questions with my son. The reading is up to him.

Spanish is pretty much self-taught using a computer based program as well. And, supplementary CDs are benefitting the entire family as we listen to them in the car and all learn new vocabulary. (Rosetta Stone and SPANISH in 10 minutes a day® with CD-ROM).

History is similarly written to the student, so he does the reading, and I follow the prompts in the teacher’s guide for discussions (Sonlight, TruthQuest, Beautiful Feet). We’ve learned that there are tons of “helps” out there if we need them, such as supplementary notebooking materials, study aids, and tutors. (Donna Young’s free science printablesHarmony Arts free notebooking pages, and Khan Academy’s free tutorials).

However, even though my son is working more independently, I am finding that I am actually enjoying learning many things alongside him. I didn’t enjoy some subjects very much when I was in school, but I am discovering that homeschooling is producing a love for learning in me as well as in my kids. Don’t forget to sit down with your teen and learn alongside him! It will benefit you both.

2. You can keep track of grades. The only thing I do differently for middle and high school grading is to switch over to a system for letter grades instead of the Satisfactory/Needs Improvement/Unsatisfactory elementary grading system. There are many free resources to help you figure out how to do this, but don’t over think it too much. Establish a grading scale in the beginning (see your state’s department of education website for requirements in your state), and use the numerical grade on the progress report and report card. Include the letter grade alongside it if you’d like, but the numerical grade is what you will use to calculate GPA and class rankings.

3. Driver’s Ed is scary, but inevitable, so you might as well face your fears. When your teen is ready to drive, start out slow – baby steps! It isn’t easy to sit in the passenger seat, and I am still learning to trust my teen. I asked our insurance company to send us free materials for teen drivers. They sent us a booklet with mini-lessons based on driving scenarios and a DVD with tips and safety measures, along with warnings about driver distractions. There is also a pledge my son signed before getting behind the wheel the first time, promising never to text and drive, etc. (Some driving schools even offer discounts to homeschool families.)

4. Teens are weird anyway. They are goofy and gangly and want to stay up all night and sleep all day. Their rooms are disaster zones, and they eat everything in sight. They can be moody, stubborn, and too silent at times.
But, they are also delightful.

You will discover how fun it is to listen to their opinions on things, to get to know them as emerging adults, and to just hang out with them. Their independence gives you more room to trust them with greater responsibilities, which is an enormous help with household tasks, caring for younger siblings, and running errands.
Just remember that they are still children, and they still need your guidance, your time, and your love and affection. They never get to old for these!

Help your teen get organized with a planner of his own.
There'e even a Well Planned DayHigh School Planner that includes all 4 years in one.
That's the one I use for my high schooler,
and it makes creating his portfolio super-easy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Homeschooling Algebra

{Read my disclosure policy}

A Different Perspective on Homeschooling Algebra

That is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of the word algebra. My past experience with algebra wasn’t great. I struggled to understand the concepts, spent hours studying, and got help with my homework from friends and family. I just didn’t get it.

When we decided to homeschool eleven years ago, I knew I’d have to face my fear one day in the far off future. I think algebra is one of the subjects that causes many homeschool parents to think they cannot continue through high school. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that far off future day arrived at my house last year, and yes, we are still homeschooling!

I still don’t get algebra, but we have discovered that trying something different and changing our perspective has helped make it a reachable goal. My son has the tendency to want to focus on reading and writing like his mama, so he isn’t too enthusiastic about algebra either. I realized that I needed to check my attitude and not let it reflect onto him.

Whether it’s algebra, chemistry, phonics, or spelling that make you break out in hives, trying a new perspective just might help you make it through your homeschool day and year.

Try a Different Perspective
Find a tutor, or at least find another family member or friend who can explain the material in a different way. A group of friends and I have formed a teen literature discussion group, which I am teaching. My background is in English, so this is right up my alley. I found a former math teacher who meets with my son once a week to review and explain things that are muddy.

Search online. My son and I have discovered many free resources for algebra online, and he is especially responding to the videos on Khan Academy’s website. These give my son a visual explanation and a different “take” on the concepts in his book.

If you’ve given a curriculum your all, and it still isn’t clicking, don’t be afraid to try something else. Our first algebra curriculum just didn’t have enough explanations, so we called it a wash and found a substitute. You can always save the other one for a different child, sell it at a used book sale, or pass it along to a family who could use it.

Break things down into manageable pieces. Instead of trying to complete an entire lesson in one sitting, spread it out and spend twenty minutes on it, then move on to something else and come back to it.

Stick with it every day. Because algebra is so challenging for us, we do it EVERY DAY. That keeps everything in our brains. Even if it just means watching a short video or working a few problems, daily exposure really helps us not have to go back and re-learn past material.

Don’t move ahead until you’ve mastered a concept. Even if it takes a few days to complete a lesson, it is important not to move ahead “lost.” One of the luxuries of homeschooling!

Sit down with your child, no matter what his age. Even a teen benefits from your undivided attention and should not be expected to work independently all the time. Just being there beside them to guide them through the lesson and offer support makes a world of difference in their attitudes.

Don’t cry. It’s only algebra (or phonics, or chemistry, or…)!