Sunday, July 25, 2010

Starting out and Learning about the States

When I began my homeschooling journey several years ago, I was at a lost for what I supposed to do to get started. I was very lucky in the sense that I had been thinking about doing this for some time and had been slowly getting schooled myself on the subject of homeschooling. I found several helpful sites in my search to find state homeschool info on homeschooling laws and advice on what to do first. Several sites gave me great information and were just full of helpful members. I had one parent forum on homeschooling that I just clicked with immediately. Everyone from the staff to other newbie homeschoolers were on there asking questions and giving their take on things. They gave me helpful advice on ways to save money on books, by going to the local library and used book stores. I also had a lot of great tips on what books I should start reading before I started the first day. Saving money was another thing that I got from this forum, they were all too happy to tell me what worked for them and what didn’t. Fast forward to this year....

Now with a 3rd grader this year, it is time to learn all 50 states/ capitals and other important info.
I again turned to my faithful friends that I have made on the site, looking for anything to help me with this task. I needed everything from what they used online and offline! I was relieved to find a US 50 state games site as well, because as you know we are a game family! I will keep you posted on my progress and would love to hear your take on how you taught the states and capitals!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Contractions are easy to teach if you have the right tools;)

Ok, coming from a house of reluctant spellers, I have to say that to teach contractions wasn’t that hard. We all use contractions in everyday life from texting, emailing and even when we are talking to someone else. My kids have no problem saying the contractions, but were a little confused on what stays and what goes when you add two words together.
I first started by giving these two definitions of contract and contraction.
Contract Definition: To draw together. To shrink or shorten.
Contraction Definition: Pulling together two words dropping one letter or some letters substituting an apostrophe (a comma that hangs in the air) for the missing letters.
Then I made up flash cards for each of the most common words that we use... can not becomes can’t and do not becomes don’t. And so on, we made a memory matching game out of these to play which was both fun and a great memory lesson. Next I made them write out simple contractions like..... I + am =,You + are =, She + is =, because with my kids it is necessary to have many different hands on experiences as possible.(and its good for their writing practice) Lastly it was time for fun learning time, and guess what? I found online contraction games that goes over everything that I just taught them! I love the Internet and the wonderful people out there that make my homeschooling life easier.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Math.....our albatross!

We are accidental homeschoolers, this was not really a choice but it was in the back of my mind for a long time that it could eventually become reality. My oldest son is SO much like me when it comes to certain parts of school that it is scary. He has issues with Math, it is his albatross and it was and still is mine as well. I spent all my schooling years learning I had a mental math block, math issues, math learning it whatever you want.... math was never easy for me. I took algebra 4x in high school and really still have no clue about it. When my kids started school, my fear was having to help them with their homework and it be math. When my son started Middle School we knew trouble was brewing and it was brewing in Math. He was floundering, we talked to the teacher and she really did little to help him or help us. Her solution was tutoring 3 hours a day after school and not by her, but by another student. 4 weeks into the school year, she gave the students an almost impossible problem and 2 weeks to complete it. We sat down and worked on it as a family, figuring it out daily until we had it complete or so we thought. He turned it in on time and came home with an "F" on it. The teacher refused to explain what we did wrong. I was done, he was feeling as low as could be and we knew right there and then that we had to make a choice - homeschool! We haven't looked back over the past 2 years! But, I was back to the same feelings of math being an albatross for both my son and myself. I was the main teacher, could we do it or would math be our downfall. During a quick week of research, I found Time 4 Learning and their program was just what we were looking for, online-animated-adjustable levels for each subject. After a doing our first Math lesson, I knew that we could do this and it was no longer and albatross for either of us! I quickly learned that he was behind for his 6th grade level and we needed to find ways besides our lessons to catch up. He has a hard time with memory retention on paper but can describe to me a computer or video game in minute detail. I started searching for online math flash cards to help his memory retention. Amazing how many other child oriented interactive math programs there are out there. I knew if it was online and fun, he would get it and retain it! We are now getting ready to start our 8th grade year and while we still stumble over areas in Math, we have come a long way in a short time. He is caught up to his grade level and I do not think that he would be this far without Time 4 Learning or the online math flash cards and other interactive math programs we found! I consider that a success!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Games and Learning go hand in hand (in my house anyways)

As a mother, with two boys 5 grades apart, learning games online are a must in my house. It keeps them both busy while I work with the other one. Language Arts is the most intensive subjects we do, just think about it, spelling,writing,comprehension,phonics, reading and more all in one subject!

Recently we started going over compound words, mostly as a refresher for my older son, or so I thought. He has ADHD and finds it very helpful to go over things on a regular basis, and once he gets the concept its there forever. But my younger son was having problems getting the concept of compound words, so both myself and older son tried to explain and show him as many of different combinations as possible so he could understand it. Finally we were all exhausted and took a break, well they did not me. I went online looking for compound word games, for both of my boys we have found that if we get stuck or they need some extra practice that finding a site that has learning games for them to use they always get the concept after a couple of minutes. Come to find out he understood just fine but he was trying to break down the words too far (into smaller sounds). Problem solved, well at least until next time!

Can't, Won't, Don't Make Me!

We as parents go thru contractions to bring these bundles of joy into the world, whether we are the Mom sweating, huffing and puffing or the Dad having his hand contracted into pulp as he gives support!LOL Who knew that years later we would use another definition of the word on a daily basis and as homeschooling parents have to TEACH contractions! The mere thought of teaching things like phonics, punctuation and contractions sends me into chills. Why do they need it, what will it ever be used for.... who cares?! It is not my strong point and usually spent with many, many, MANY phone calls to my Mom, the retired teacher so she can walk me thru it.....again! I am sure she could make $$ writing a book on how to teach your daughter this stuff so she understands and retains it.....LOL! Because as much as I would like to look the other way and not have to teach it.... we ALL use a contraction at least once a day! By Websters definition a contraction is; a shortened form of a word or group of words, with the omitted letters often replaced in written English by an apostrophe. For example, do not becomes don't, cannot becomes can't. Think back over your day, your emails, your conversations..... how many times did you use a contraction today?! Amazing isn't(another contraction) it, when you start to think about it!
Got to love modern times and thank goodness for the Internet! Search engines are a lifesaver when it comes to figuring out cool sites that correspond with what you are trying to teach! We have found that spelling games and contraction games are the way to go, to instill the correct usage of a contraction.... along with a little fun!LOL
Now, you have no excuses to tell your kids they "Can't, Won't, Don't Make Me" teach them contractions! Instead, go online and say I can, I will and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Make Me and then have fun with contractions and your kids! I promise it isn't as hard as you think!

Friday, July 9, 2010

More than just a box of crayons....

As an Art and Art History lover, I naturally thought that my children would somehow be born with that love. Silly, I know.....
Yes, they loved sitting down with me and opening a box of crayons(awww, that new crayon smell!) and coloring in their newest coloring book when they were 3, or learning to use scissors,glue sticks and glitter to create a magical Christmas gift made just for Grandma when they were 5. By the time they could hand draw Pokemon characters themselves, Mom time was forgotten. And Art was nothing more than drawing something simple that they were interested in. You cannot imagine my excitement when a few months ago, Time 4 Learning started offering an online art program. And not just any art program. It allows kids to express themselves freely while learning about Art! Suddenly my kids were interested in Art and allowing Mom to hang with them while they learned! YIPPEE! One more convenient thing that Time 4 Learning has added to their ever expanding core curriculum, which we use for homeschooling.
This gave us the interest to explore what other online art programs were out there! We found several but they were not equal to what Time 4 Learning offered. Then we found some offered Art in game form, so we refined our search to art games. Jackpot! We have now opened new windows in our continuous homeschool adventure! Art was a test program added to our 2009-2010 school year and will become an staple for our 2010-2011 school year! I have already plugged it into our schedule! One more thing off my never ending list for homeschool!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A little bit about Me.....

My name is Katrina and I am a homeschooling Mom of 2 busy boys! Happily married for 17 years to my husband Chris, a Medical Assistant. We have been homeschooling for 2 school years and getting ready to start our 3rd year in August. We were accidental homeschoolers, after my oldest son had issues entering Middle School. My husband and I feel that this was the best choice for our kids we have ever made and wish we had made it sooner! We use Time 4 Learning as our core curriculum and I swear by it! It has turned my "I hate school" ADHD child into a smiling, learning, happy boy! It has made my gifted, school didn't challenge him child love to learn again because he can work at a pace and level that works for him! Luckily, my Mom is a retired schoolteacher so she handles the writing portion! It worked well for us last year and we are using her again this year! While we use Time 4 Learning as our core for Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts - we also add our own few touches like Spanish on their Nintendo DS's, Free Reading, Hands on Science using an awesome kit from Grandma, Spelling and the afore mentioned writing program. I am a WAHM, work-at-home Mom! I run a daycare/preschool out of my home and have for almost 20 years, so things are never dull and slow around here! I am currently upgrading my license, so I will go from 3 toddler/preschoolers to 6! Nothing like a good challenge!LOL With 2 tween/teenage boys, 3 toddlers, a new puppy, 2 crazy cats, a frog, a chameleon and 14 chickens life can get a little bit hectic. I know that I could not homeschool like we want to without Time 4 Learning, it is a sanity saver! Happy Homeschooling!

Online Writing Courses

Hi, my name is Michelle and I am like most homeschooling parents, wanting to make sure that my boys have a well rounded education. Along with that, there are areas that I can not teach as well as I would like. We all have our favorite subjects to teach but writing has never been one that I have excelled in teaching my boys, so I went to the internet and found a homeschool online writing program. The wonderful thing about this program is that your child has a real life writing teacher, that grades their work for you. My middle school son has gotten much better in his writing since taking the first Middle School Basic Writing Mechanics course. Another plus is that I decided to start having my son be responsible for getting their work done without me having to tell him. Everything is laid out for the students once they log in, and when they finish a section the teacher grades it before they move on. I was a little worried about if he would finish on time but he did a great job! For him writing is not the favorite subject but he got a B, proud mother moment.

This is a great way to get some homeschool writing class in this summer, without it being alot of extra work for the parents.