Thursday, November 20, 2008

Assignment #110 - Computers Help People Help People (IBM)

Share some of your favorite homeschooling sites. The only “rule” for this assignment is that you have to list at least one “free” site. Many homeschooling families have made the choice to live on very little income to do what they believe is best for their children and I want everyone to be able to benefit from this assignment. If you have other sites that are “paid” sites, feel free to include these also as it might be something someone would really appreciate. If you feel led, share your curriculum choices with us. I always love to learn what is out there that I don’t already know about. Please make sure to include links to the sites you share.

Although we live on a limited income, I don't stress much about finding free stuff on the internet. I think that any money we invest in curriculum is well worth it, especially great living books we'll read again and again. But I do love finding helpful resources on the internet for things like art, music, books, etc.

I have spent way too much time finding great sites on the internet - it always seems like one site leads to five more! Sometimes I've felt almost manic as my excitement over finding new resources builds to a boiling point - look at all these possibilities!!! And knowing that other people are posting about sites I might not know yet makes me giddy (but not in the Singaporean way, which means "dizzy").

So here are some of the sites I love:
Vegsource This is actually a vegan website. I am not vegan, but it has a great used curriculum page where I have found many things I need.

The Homeschool Mom This website has lots of fun free things, including a newsletter.

Art Projects for Kids I have had so much fun using this website - she regularly posts art activities for kids that are easy and creative.

Children's Books: What, When and How to Read Them This woman does not appear to be a believer, but I LOVE books, and she has given me a lot of leads on good books for our kids.

Squidoo This is a place where people can upload information about anything, so if you go to the main site and search on homeschool, you'll find over 750 pages! I found it while looking for information on how to lapbook.

Homeschool Share If you're into lapbooks and unit studies, this has a ton of free resources! I am just getting into them, so it's been a good introduction for me.

And one more thing - if you aren't familiar with the Usborne Internet Linked series, you should check it out! We have the history and science books (We use Story of the World for history, which references pages from Usborne History in each chapter). Granted Usborne is NOT written from a Christian perspective, but the kids have loved looking up the links to pages they've learned about. Recently we found several sites from it about the human body that had fun games and interesting videos. Plus, for my very visual learner, it gives great pictures to put with our stories.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Importance of Play

I read this interesting article this morning about the negative effects of school age kids not having enough time to play anymore. If your kids are in school, I highly recommend you read it! One thing it mentions is that the experts feel a lack of play contributes to diminished innovation and creative skills. Let me say that Singapore is evidence of the truth of this article! The kids in school here are pushed SO hard. All free time is wrapped up in "tuitions" (extra classes) with no time to be kids. The result is a society that is intellectually solid, but lacking in creative and initiative taking skills.

I am more and more convinced these days that homeschooling is a great thing. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't do more work, since homeschool usually only takes up half the day. Reading this article reminded me that all that play time is a necessary part of their development.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Did It Again

I told you that background wouldn't last for long. How could it when they posted a hoard of NEW Christmas templates like this one? I didn't like the last one because you couldn't read much of the text at once, or see a full picture.

So here's a new background, and it's making me excited to head back to the land of snow!

BFS Assignment #109 We Bring Good Things To Life (GE)

Assignment: Share a field trip/lifestyle learning experience where you really felt you were bringing good things to life for your children, where something came alive for them, or ignited a passion.

I'm late with my assignment this week because I've been wracking my brain trying to think of some outing we went on that ignited a passion. We've been on lots of outings. Most memorable includes paper making in Mae Sa Valley outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, taking a kampong tour where we saw how rubber trees produce in Desaru, Malaysia, and touring a granite quarry in Vermont. And our children have many passions, among them writing, reading, Legos, building, archery, fishing, splashing in rivers, mothering (that would be one of Megan's), history, science, crafts, music, and China. But it's hard to connect any of these with a specific outing.

I guess I can see the genesis of one passion which wasn't in a homeschool specific context. Erik took Ethan with him to visit some friends one summer, where Ethan was exposed to fishing for the first time. It's something I never would have done myself because I'm not a fisherman and neither was my dad. But he was hooked, no pun intended.

He could do this all day.

Megan's not as big of a fan of fishing.

This is where we often find Megan with pen in hand, either copying something or composing her own stories.

It's fun to think though that one of these days who knows what experience will spark a life long passion in them. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whales on Stilts: book review

In my endless quest for information (I'm like #5 from Short Circuit, "Need input!") I stumble across various blogs, which I add to my google reader list. Yours might be one of them, you never know. But anyway, one of them is the site of a woman who regularly reviews kid's books. One of the books she recommended was Whales on Stilts, by M.T. Anderson. So we picked it up last week at the library.

Megan quickly lost interest due to the minimal number of pictures, but Ethan and I enjoyed it. I think you probably have to have a bit of a wacky sense of humor (and I do) to appreciate the way this book is written, but even if you don't, you have to give it kudos for creativity. The plot is somewhat ridiculous, but at no point does it insist that you take it seriously. Ethan easily could have read it himself - though a good sized chapter book, the print was spaced well. But as usual he preferred that I read it. Some of the joking went past Ethan, but it wasn't inappropriate for kids.

It's a fun read aloud, and a great reader for kids who are at a 3rd grade level or so. Ethan's asking for the sequel, which is always a good sign.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

BFS #108 - Quality is Job #1

Intro: Quality is Job #1 (Ford)

Assignment: My family and I rarely do anything apart from each other. We don’t really have quality time together because all our time is together. We feel like the more special moments are when we have dinner together or when we worship God together. For this assignment, tell how you and your family spend QUALITY time together.

I think there's a bit difference between time together and quality time together. I do spend most of my time with my kids, but I know I am not always focused on them. I may be trying to shoot out an email, or distracted by my task list while they are trying to get me to engage with them. I find that the times when I tell myself, "There is nothing else in the world right now that is important other than being with my kids" I feel a great sense of freedom and enjoyment of them. If only I would remember that all the time!

One of the ways we've been trying to pursue making our time together fun and memorable is doing family active games together (this also doubles as phy ed time!). A few weeks ago we had a rousing game of "Run For Your Life!" which is something like what we used to play as kids when we hid, ran for "base" and yelled, "Oly Oly Oxen Free!" Now that I think about it, why on earth did we yell that? Anyway, Run For Your Life was great but now that rainy season has hit, and daddy's had a heavy travel month, we've brought our game times back inside.

The most popular game of late has been balloon volleyball. We connect the backs of two chairs with a rope and hit the balloon back and forth - you probably could have figured that out on your own without my explanation. What's funny to me is that because we basically don't have rules regarding how many times you can hit it, or even having to keep it off the ground, it's really just a game of "keep the balloon in the air." But the kids aren't complaining so why quibble the small stuff? It's become an almost daily activity lately. I confess I leave most of the moving to the kids who are sweaty and worn out by the time they're done, although last night Ethan and I had a pretty heated game that resulted in my arms feeling a little sore.

It's fun to hit on an activity that is quick, easy, and everyone enjoys.

I realize this doesn't look like a family activity - where are mom and dad? Dad was on a business trip and I'm taking the picture. But usually we're all involved!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Life is learning

My first exposure to homeschool came before I was even married. One summer day, feeling lonely, I walked across the street to introduce myself to the family I knew worked in another ministry on campus. The door was answered by a wonderful woman, Dee, who became mentor and friend to me in the next year.

She had three sweet little girls and one on the way, and she homeschooled them. I watched Dee parent them and talk about homeschooling - she mentioned how the smallest thing like seeing a firetruck drive by, or them watching her bake, was an opportunity for learning.

That lesson came back to me today when my son, who had been occupied measuring the living room furniture said, "Mom, do we have to go back to homeschool now?" We had read a book called Measuring Penny about a girl who measures her dog in every possible way, so the kids had grabbed tape measures and were hard at work measuring different things.
I said, "Ethan, you've been doing homeschool!" After all, he was learning, just at home.

One of the things I often hear is, "homeschooling is not school at home." In other words, you aren't trying to recreate what they'd have at school. But my personality demands structure, as does my time conscious son's, so while I want us to have an atmosphere of learning, I do find that I have a starting and stopping point each day. Part of my reasoning in that is that I want my kids to learn structure and how to be engaged in an activity for a prescribed time.

But as I reflect on our detour this morning, or the fact that right now Ethan is learning what happens when you burn rubberbands (yes, with permission - it's science!), or that earlier he observed the water tension on top of a cup of water and spend time reading about surface tension on the internet (more science!) I'm reminded that their learning isn't restricted to "school time."