Tuesday, March 31, 2015

STEM Challenge Monday - Only on Tuesday

Each week I try to do some type of STEM challenge activity with the girls. Usually Monday is the day but occasionally for one reason or another it gets pushed back to another day. This was one of those weeks. I made the girls what until after lunch for this one.

For this challenge you will need a rubber band, string, and 10 plastic cups. The object of the activity is to tie the strings onto the rubber band and work as a team to move the cups into a pyramid formation. It took the girls a few tries to figure out the logistics and the best method of moving the cups.

Once they figured out that the rubber band needed to stay on the very tip of the bottom of the cup in order to get it back off easily while stack - they were able to build a pyramid quickly.

They were able to build a pyramid twice while also learning how to work together.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Some Favorite Links as of Late

I read many blogs and absorb so much information from them on a weekly basis. Quite frankly I think I spend too much time reading blogs and not enough time reading books, but I digress. Here are a few posts from around blog land that I felt were interesting or taught me something or made me think.

How to Get Your Interest-Led Learners Back on Track

I have often dreamed of running our own library for homeschoolers out of our home which is why I am constantly purchasing used books. Not sure if that will ever happen, but this link for little libraries outside your home is another thing altogether.

5 Tips for Running a Little Free Library

Current favorite sermon series from Andy Stanley

Northpiont Online Messages

Homeschooling Through High School Series

10 Things I Did Right Homeschooling High School

These are just a few things floating around the web that I thought might be interesting to others, especially those homeschooling high school age kids.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up - The Week of Not Much

On the Home Front
Well, not much. I was sick Sunday through Wednesday. Grace plugged along with her school work as much as she could without me and helped with the house and animals while I was laid up in bed. There was a lot of catching up on TV episodes and laying around recovering from a lingering stomach bug with many an animal in my lap as you can see in the picture above.
My tutoring students didn't get to come all week but I did send some work home with them. The pictures below depict some of the activities they worked on last week. I took them outside to work on a sketch derived from one of our review products. The next picture shows the girls working on their Orphs of the Woodlands story and activities which is another review product. Both products will have reviews coming up in the very near future.

On the Cooperative Front
This is where things get really tricky. I had to miss practice on Tuesday because of the above stated illness. Luckily my partner in crime (co-director) was able to handle all the details of the next scenes in blocking Peter Pan. The next 4-6 weeks will be insane trying to build a stage, handle sound, figure out new lighting equipment, finish all practices for Peter Pan, Recital Night, Variety Show, Spring Formal, Parent Packet to go out with new classes for the fall, and so much more. We had another practice on Thursday that I was able to attend. Then last night (Friday) all the teens of the Cooperative got together for an informal dance. Think some ballroom, some fast dance, some slow dance, the chicken dance, line dancing, and even the limbo. Kids had a great time.

Teens getting ready to start the Virginia Reel last night.
This is learning What Makes a Brave Man Brave on our make believe stage made out of tape dimensions until the stage is built next week.
Portfolio piece for Dave Raymond's American History
Grace is plugging along with her academic load. Spanish and Literature classes will be finished on April 30th. Hoping History and Biology will be done by the end of May and Math in the beginning of August. Grace handed in her application for a work study program this week to an animal hospital for the summer. She is pretty excited about this one. Looking at maybe two full days a week and if they like her and she likes the work continuing on through the school year.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Being Sick has Taught Me

Lately I have been struggling with administering such a structured school day to Grace that it leaves very little time for anything else. Of course some of that does fall on her and making her school work a priority that doesn't stretch throughout the day. As I have mentioned before in my opinion homeschooling high school just isn't fun and some days is pure drudgery. I want her to be passionate about something. Sometimes that passion revolves around art but over the past six months not as much as it once was. I have also talked with a close friend that unschools and have tried to get a beat on what that actually looks like on a day to day basis. I have tried something similar to unschooling in the past but it just didn't work for us. Most days Grace isn't very motivated to do anything, but today things were a little different. You see, yesterday afternoon I came down with the nasty virus that is going around our community. Grace had it a couple of weeks ago. Mondays are usually hard school days trying to get as many subjects finished as possible, but today would be a little different. Grace is not only getting some of her schoolwork done but she is having to be me. That means taking care of laundry, washing dishes, taking all the dogs in and out to the bathroom, watching over the puppies, and so on. I didn't have to ask her to take care of these chores for me she just stepped up and did them. So all this rambling is really my way of saying even if she didn't get to a lot of her schoolwork today - the day was not a bust. She stepped up to the plate and did what needed to be done to keep the house running smoothly while I was up in bed trying to get better. Life Skills 101. It is okay to step back and just live life because they are learning something every day. Just because they didn't open a book doesn't mean it wasn't a good day of education and life building.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What I Needed to Hear When I Needed to Hear It

 Sometimes you come across an article or blog post that just immediately speaks to you. This is one of those blog post series that you wish all your homeschool friends and beyond could read. So that is exactly what I am doing - sharing a blog post that speaks to me on so many levels. This link is to the third part in the series and I am waiting very impatiently to read the 4th and 5th installments. You can obviously find the 1st and 2nd if you are so inclined. I wish I had started out homeschooling this way and had the guts to continue it in high school. I have read this blog for years and she always writes something thought provoking and instrumental in our homeschooling life.

A Goal Driven Curriculum - fimby

If you have the chance to check this out and also go to some of her past posts you won't be disappointed. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Critical Thinking Company Review
Sometimes math can get monotonous and boring. Or you may find yourself getting close to finishing your regular curriculum and wonder what to do next. Well, that is the predicament I found ourselves in this year. I knew our regular math curriculum would be finished before the end of the year and we weren't really prepared to move onto the next grade level. Luckily for us the opportunity arose to review GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN. This company graciously gave us the chance to use and review this product with access to all five levels.
Current support platforms for the product include: Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac computers, Apple iPad, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. GPALOVEMATH is a streaming online product that can be used on the following browsers: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7. In our household we mostly used the program on Google Chrome with no problems. GPALOVEMATH is recommended for students in grades K-5. Each grade level has a different learning coach that teaches the material to the student and guides them along the way. We concentrated on the 5th grade level and our coaches were Dino and Nina. Two of my three tutoring students worked with me on this review. We decided to do it all together as review. This meant we listened to the lesson together, then did the practice problems and quiz problems together taking turns coming up with the answers. Typically we worked on this product three days a week Monday - Wednesday.
With this online math program the parent will find four main areas to investigate, explore, and use. The first is the Dashboard which is a centralized location to see what lessons your child has accomplished, what problems they may have had, rewards handed out, and any messages, etc. from the engage area of the program. The Learn section is where we spent 90 percent of our time. Here you can navigate around to the different lessons and topics available. There are drop down menus to choose the grade level and the topic order for each. Next is the Engage section which unfortunately I didn't need to use as of yet. In this area you can post questions and engage with other users of the program. The fourth section is Motivate which utilizes a way for parents to reward and motivate their students for hard work and accomplishments. The girls were pretty happy near the end of the review period to win a reward that let them get out of a chore and make their parent do that chore. For my two students that consisted of vacuuming and cleaning a hamster cage. The parent can use what the program offers as recommended rewards or curtail the rewards to what your family most identifies.
The topics we chose to cover were decimals and geometry. I found out real quick the girls enjoyed the geometry lessons much more than the decimal lessons. I think this mostly revolved around just preference more than anything related to the actual product. Something the girls were not very fond of was the robotic voice of the coaches. They repeatedly asked me to turn down the volume and sometimes even read the lesson themselves instead of listening to Dino and Nina. We also grew a little tired of the BOLT acronym (used to teach the method to solve problems) which was reviewed in every single lesson multiple times. BOLT stands for B - Break it Down, O - Organize a Plan, L - Let's Solve, T - Test Your Answer. Saying all this I do think it is a good product and as we neared the end of the review period both girls wanted to continue on with the program. I believe our next step with this product will look like this - finishing up our current math curriculum (only 14 lessons left) and start reviewing more math concepts from GPALOVEMATH until the end of the year.
If you are looking for something different to do for math you may want to take a look at GPALOVEMATH and see if it might be a good fit for you and your family. Also talk a look at what other Crew Members had to say as well about this product.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

STEM Challenge Monday

Each Monday I hope to motivate the girls to think with a STEM Challenge. For those unfamiliar with what a STEM Challenge actually is - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Sometime even Art is added in to make it STEAM.
Yesterday I handed the girls a stack of index cards and tape. I asked them to create a structure that could support weight. Most of what they created worked.

It was interesting to watch how each individual created their structure. No two were alike.

If you are interested in starting a STEM Challenge day in your home I have created a Pinterest Board dedicated to STEM Challenges. I am also considering this as a Cooperative class next semester for the elementary group.