Although we have come a long way since the days of educational segregation, it still goes without saying that we humans tend to shun that which is different from the norm. When it comes to the education of children with special needs, one need only look at our collective past and present to realize that this is all too true.
For most of the 20th century, children with special needs were sent to special schools and segregated from the rest of the student population. Parents had very little support from school districts and government officials, if any assistance at all, and so a significant percentage of our youth became increasingly more isolated. These children and their families had no welcoming place in the educational arena and so, they either remained at home or were sent away to group homes. With virtually no government
financial assistance, parents struggled to advocate for their children – where would they get their school books? Where were their educational resources? Sadly, it was the societal mindset at the time, that children with disabilities were ineducable and therefore parents were all but left on their own. As human nature seems to be, the more isolated people are, the more they are feared and/or shunned and this ignorance has proven devastating.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act came into effect, mandating public schools to provide equal access to education for all children and this truly acted as the catalyst for educational reform vis à vis students with disabilities. It has since become known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) mandating all public schools in the United States to provide free, appropriate, public education to all students in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
Throughout the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s and the first decade of the 21st Century, the United States has continued to make gains in the area of Special Education thanks in great part to the growing number of advocacy groups bringing awareness of children with special needs to the front line and to parents who continue to strive for the well-being of their children – mind, body and soul. Changes, tweaks and improvements in educational reform continue to be made thanks in large part to these amazing individuals and groups who,
throughout history, have been and continue to be brave enough to step away from the crowd when they feel something is gravely out of balance and negatively impacting on the health and well-being of our youth. However, we still have a long road ahead.
One area in particular that deserves attention and respect is the strange and mysterious world of homeschooling.
Do families really have the right to educate their own children? Do they really have the right to homeschool their children with special needs? And why would they want to if all of these strides have been made in the public school system?
The world at large is still vastly unaware of the homeschooling underworld and because of this ignorance, families who choose to homeschool their children feel as though they are reliving the educational dark years of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
To answer the first question, Do families really have the right to educate their own children?, the answer is unequivocally, Yes. To the second question, Do they really have the right to homeschool their children with special needs?, the answer is indubitably,Yes. And finally, to the last question, …why would they want to if all of these strides have been made in the public school system?, the answers vary greatly, are personal, and could either be complicated or quite simple. So, although we are told time and time again not to answer a question with a question, my answer truly is, Why not?
Just like the world of public education, homeschooling has been growing by leaps and bounds. Once shunned and treated as strange and weird, it is now becoming more commonplace and accepted, not that the vast majority of homechooling families worry about how they fit in, per se. The homeschooling world is a mixture of individuals from free-thinkers to Christians, unschoolers and traditional homeschoolers, families who follow the Waldorf philosophy, the classical path and even the Montessori approach, just to name a few. In other words, the sky’s the limit when it comes to homeschooling. So why do people choose to homeschool whether or not their chilren have special needs? I suppose the mother of all answers, the umbrella under which all homeschooling families fall, is simply because homeschooling families feel it is the best approach to education for their children. And just as we all desire and deserve respect for the proactive decisions we make with regard to ourchildren’s well-being – mind, body and soul – homeschooling families are certainly no different.
So, if you have been one in the past to shun the homeschooling world and have looked upon them as different and therefore, weird, you may want to re-think your attitude, open up your mind and heart and learn about the amazing world of homeschooling!
Here are wonderful resources for parents who are thinking about or who are already homeschooling their children with special needs:
TIME 4 LEARNING
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit
Carreen Schroeder of New York Adventures in Homeschooling, has been a certified teacher in Ontario and in New York State since 1999, holding an Ms.Ed in Elementary Education, a B.A. in French Language and Literature and a Specialist in Special Education. She has been homeschooling her youngest of three daughters since 2012 and is passionate about assisting homeschooling families with free resources and homeschooling services. Visit Carreen at: www.newyorkadventuresinhomeschooling.com
Homeschool.com’s 101 Things To Do This Summer list contains lots of great activities and educational ideas. Some are perfect for the 4th of July! For example–
45. Have an old fashioned weenie roast– and make your own mustard. There are over 100 recipes for mustard on the following link.
71. Learn and tell summer jokes.
84. Understand the science behind fireworks.
Want to see the entire list? It’s here.
And our Summer Fun magazine is tied to the list–so you might want to read that too! :)
Technology in a Changing Learning Environment
This is a guest blog post from Opportunities For eLearning
We are in the middle of a digital revolution bringing about large changes in education. The number of online tools currently available to homeschoolers is staggering. Many believe such tools are useful, but the rapid pace with which technology is changing has led to growing concerns, especially in regards to overall cost and complicated implementation processes.
Recently, online virtual schools have shouldered much of the burden incorporating technology into every day lessons for convenience and efficiency.
Here are some of the new ways online schools are utilizing technology to teach homeschoolers:
Tutors are just a click away for support with difficult assignments, available for one-on-one discussions about daily lessons, homework assignments, and college/career planning.
- Message Boards:
As part of an online curriculum, students can interact with their classmates through message boards to discuss various topics. This gives students the opportunity to engage with their peers, while maintaining a safe working atmosphere.
- Data-Driven Instruction:
Teachers can now study student achievement patterns to determine what teaching methods are most effective. This allows virtual schools to thoroughly review curriculum and make necessary adjustments to ensure students are receiving the highest quality education possible.
- Archived Lessons:
Class sessions are recorded and archived to allow students to review difficult lessons as many times as necessary. This allows every student the opportunity to spend sufficient time on challenging or especially interesting subjects.
- Interactive Games:
Online curriculum incorporates game simulations to help motivate students to reach academic goals. Interactive games encourage engagement and competitiveness among students, helping them think critically about subject matter and retain valuable knowledge.
Opportunities For eLearning (OFeL) is an online school that works to ensure students are receiving the highest level of education possible by utilizing the latest and greatest technology. OFeL can fully satisfy the expanding needs of a 21st century learner!
This is a guest blog post from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
You Can Save BIG on Homeschool Curriculum
School districts get huge discounts on their curriculum. Why not homeschoolers? The reason is simple: school districts have purchasing power and homeschoolers don’t because we purchase as individuals.
All of that has changed with the Homeschool Buyers Co-op! Founded by Brett Walter, a homeschool dad, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is the world’s largest homeschool co-op and a great source for award-winning, affordable homeschool curriculum.
How the Co-op Works
As a member of the Co-op, you can take advantage of our co-op purchasing power and save 20%-90% on your homeschool curriculum. By pooling the purchasing power of our entire membership, we are able to call major educational publishers and homeschool curriculum providers and ask for the same discounts they give school districts. And it works! Because virtually every vendor will give discounts for their homeschool curriculum if they are assured adequate volumes.
The Co-op is able to get the volumes needed for affordable homeschooling programs by a process called a “GroupBuy”. Essentially, we negotiate volume discounts with the homeschool curriculum providers so that you are able to save BIG on your purchase. And, the more people we get to participate in each GroupBuy, the more everybody will save!
Membership is FREE!
You might be wondering, “What does it take to become a Co-op member?” The answer is simple, it just takes you! All you have to do is sign up and you’re ready to begin saving. Simply head over to the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, click the Join Now button, and join over 135,000 families saving on homeschool curriculum every day!
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding the Co-op. We look forward to having you as a member of the Co-op and serving you through your homeschool journey.
About the Homeschool Buyers Co-op
With over 135,000 families, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is the world’s largest homeschool co-op and a great source for award-winning, affordable homeschool curriculum. Membership is free and you will be part of a Co-op that brings you the greatest homeschool curriculum values on earth.
It was 2008 and I had decided to take on the adventure of homeschooling my twin kindergarteners. I was already feeling insecure about this new job when a lady at the grocery store asked me why my girls were not in school. I replied in a bubbly tone, “We homeschool.” That didn’t make her very happy and she told me so. I remember her comments hitting me like a slap in the face. It just so happens that I did stop homeschooling the girls after a few months of trying. I’m pretty sure the devil used that lady’s comment to make me wonder if I was doing the right thing. Looking back, I now see a number of reasons for me suddenly deciding to give up homeschooling my girls, but my lack of confidence in what God had called me to do was definitely at the top of the list.
Answering an email question about homeschooling last night brought all those memories back again. This lady wants to start homeschooling and is feeling apprehensive about what others will think. It’s understandable.
When I first started, I vividly remember being so scared of what others, especially moms, were going to think of me for making the decision to homeschool. I didn’t know who I was in Christ back then, or even what that phrase meant, and this left me certain that I needed everyone else’s approval for it to be alright.
Fast forward seven years to today and everything is oh so different. Our girls did go to a wonderful Christian school from K-2nd grade, at which time I felt God spoke to my heart something I never expected to hear again. He wanted me to homeschool the girls again? What? “But God, I did that before and failed.”
God didn’t decide to change His mind after hearing my complaint. Imagine that!
I sat on it for quite a while before even saying anything to my husband, but when we talked we both knew it was right because we had this incredible peace. Peace in the midst of knowing that we did not know one thing about what we were doing. I hadn’t homeschooled long enough in kindergarten to learn much.
The first quarter of our first year (my girls were in 3rd grade) was a little rough due to lots of unexpected outside responsibilities that required our time, but the other three quarters of the year were awesome because at this time, God began to give me a revelation of His love and grace for me.
One of the first things God did as part of this new grace journey was to show me all the false props I had in my life that I was propping my confidence up on. One of the biggest false props for me was needing other people’s good opinions. God began to teach me that all the worth and value I would ever need was wrapped up in my relationship with Him. Over time, He showed me through my everyday life experiences and reactions; just how deeply embedded my confidence was in almost all the wrong things. As I say in my book, God had to unspool my wrong thinkingand spool it back up correctly – according to His Word! My heavenly Father taught me to put my confidence in His unconditional love and great grace toward me instead of in my false props.
I believe this is the main reason why, in these past four years of homeschooling, I have not worried at all about what others think about my decision to homeschool or my individual decisions within homeschooling. In fact, a lady emailed me recently and asked “why I homeschool if I’m not qualified.” I simply did not respond to her email, and was able to quickly forgive her and pray for her by God’s grace. I believe I was able to respond like this because I now have confidence that I am doing what God has called me to do in homeschooling my girls.
Now, just to clarify, I’m not and never will be the type of homeschooling mom that believes that just because I homeschool, everyone else needs to homeschool, too.
Each parent needs to be led by the Holy Spirit to do what is right for their own kids, and we know that for now homeschooling is what we are called to do.
I hope, after reading some of my story, you will also decide to let God remove the false props from your life and replace them with true confidence. It will make a huge difference in your homeschooling experience. If you do, I encourage you to pray this prayer: “Dear God, please remove the false props in my life – the things I am falsely propping my confidence on. Help me to find my confidence in you alone, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Now, get ready for a little shaking in your life. You have to remember that if your confidence is currently in any number of false props – money, possessions, family, beauty, physical fitness, career, titles, awards, diplomas, intelligence, humor, self-righteousness, past victories, accomplishments, traditions, trends, having a perfectly clean house all the time, having your to-do list completely checked off, having the good opinion of others – then allowing God to remove these props will initially make you feel shaky. But please believe me when I say that this transition is so worth any discomfort you’ll have to go through. You will be happier than you have ever been before when your confidence is in Christ alone! I promise!
Sandra McCollom is the author of I Tried Until I Almost Died: From Anxiety and Frustration to Rest and Relaxation (WaterBrook Press, March 2015). You can find her online at sandramccollom.com.
8 Online Tools for Successful K12 Learning
Even young kids today have become more adept in using innovative devices as well as the Internet for their studies. When you access the web, you get to find a broad range of websites offering you different tools and platforms that can be used. Teachers and parents can definitely use the Internet to help students reach their potential. If you are searching for specific online tools that you can use for K12 learning, there are also several options to choose from. This article lists 8 tools that are specifically created for K12 learning.
There are so many things that kids can learn whenever they read different kinds of literature. For both parents and educators, it can be quite challenging to find interesting materials that kids would be very eager to read. With the site, todayinliterature.com, there are several literary pieces to choose from. Whether you are searching for online stories and other literary materials, you can just access their database for free. This website can help students enhance their reading comprehension, creativity and other skills.
Reading your favorite classic and other literary materials does not have to entail cost on your part. Thanks to the Project Gutenberg, online user can now access thousands of free ebooks and other reading materials for free. You can just access the website Gutenberg.org and start searching for the specific literary material or work you need. The site is properly categorized depending on the subject area like philosophy, fiction, history and a whole lot more. Now, you can just click on these categories to make it easier for you to find the material that you are looking for. Now, you can read any material without the need to spend any dime.
Another great website that students can use for their studies and for exam preparations is pinkmonkey.org. Through this website, students get to access free online literature summaries for free. The website has a huge database where teachers, students and other online users can access 460 study guides, book notes, chapter summaries and a whole lot more. Apart from study notes and literary summaries, the site also has interesting materials like parents tips, college planning information, etc. Students, teachers and parents can find many interesting and useful information from this website.
In submitting an essay or any other written work required by the teacher, students have to make sure that the paper to be submitted is free from any grammatical or spelling error. Many students struggle when it comes to proofreading and editing their work. The good thing is that there are companies offering topnotch and reliable proofreading and editing services. Allcorrerct.org is an online firm specializing in proofreading and editing. You can just submit any paper and they will deliver it to you free from any error or mistake.
The traditional encyclopedia might have become less popular among students and educators. But with Grolier online, these materials are now integrated into the online platform for easy access and convenience. Through the website of Grolier, you get to access 120,000 articles, 340,000 web links, thousands of newspapers in various languages and other materials. In addition, the site also has interactive maps, timelines, atlases and ebooks for primary school, middle year and high school students. With the Grolier platform, students get to have the necessary materials that they need in just one site.
Drafting an essay is never easy. For students who barely have a knack for it, submitting a quality essay on time is quite daunting. At bestessaytips.com, students never have to worry about it. The site offers excellent writing services unlike no other. Hiring only the best and skilled writers, students get to have quality papers that can earn them high marks. Bestessaytips.com provides essay writing and other academic writing services. Students who are in need of an essay can just place their order, provide the details and wait for the final work to be delivered. Set the deadline and Best Essay Tips will deliver the final work.
Before, students would carry their dictionary and thesaurus with them. But since most kids and other students today have their portable devices, there is no need to carry any book with you. Thesaurus.com is a website where online users can just type in and search for the meaning of words. The site is free to use and can be easily accessed through any device. Enriching ones vocabulary is now made more efficient with the help of these kinds of tools. With their huge database, students can just search the word they do not know.
To inspire students, Powermylearning.org is a website specifically created for those who want to have successful K12 learning. It is a free platform where educators can personalize instruction and access various activities and playlists for their students. Educators can access free activities, create playlists and monitor assignments. Parents can also connect with their child through various activities. Students can join classes, track assignments and interact with other students.
Quality K12 education is essential for students to prepare them for future studies. Apart from the materials that are used in class, educators and parents can definitely find other means and ways to make K12 more interesting and innovative. The Internet offers various tools and platforms to make it easier for students and teachers. With the help of these tools, students can have successful K12 learning.
This is a guest blog post written by Kate Funk. Kate is a content editor and writer at A-Writer.com. She provides writing advice for students, young writers and those who need writing help. Kate believes that different tools could be of great use to modern homeschoolers.
Homeschool.com’s Summer Freebie Extravaganza ends
on June 30th!
Don’t miss out!
10 Do’s and Don’ts for Parents Facing the College Application Process
By Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Petersons & EssayEdge
Parents go through a tricky balancing act when setting their child gingerly on the road toward college. As a homeschooling parent, you’ve been very involved in all aspects of your child’s academic career. The difficult thing is to juggle a desire to put your son or daughter on the right track without overwhelming them or overstepping your bounds.
The truth is, attempts to help your children can result in deep-seated college anxiety. You want to be supportive, but you don’t want to smother. You want to be available and help them get ahead, but you don’t want them to lose their self-reliance. What is the best way to walk this tightrope?
Here are 10 do’s and don’ts for parents to consider when they come face-to-face with the college-bound teen conundrum.
1. Time After Time
DO – Encourage your student to keep to a schedule that includes (along with regular homework) some time every week to devote to college preparation.
DON’T – Talk about college all the time. In fact, designate boundaries. Like no talking about college or the ACT or anything related at the dinner table (or the breakfast table… it’s the same table). Or maybe no talking about it on the weekends. Give it a rest, because otherwise you can make the process grueling.
2. Keep Free Time Free
DO – Help your child pick the right extracurricular that follows with his or her skills and interests.
DON’T – Encourage your child to enroll in many activities (or volunteer experiences) just as resume builders. Admissions officers would rather see commitment to one activity that has led to some proficiency (or a leadership role) than someone who is all over the map.
3. There’s No “I” in College
DO – Discuss with your son or daughter your own experience with college (or lack of it) and why you think it is important from your perspective.
DON’T – Make the Freudian slip of calling the application “our” application or “our” school. You might be the one paying for the bulk of the schooling, but you aren’t going to be taking classes.
4. I Need an adult!
DO – Get a trusted adult to talk with your child. Sometimes, the same advice (the “right” advice/your advice) just doesn’t sound the same coming from a parent. Find another adult to talk with your son or daughter and maybe it will be easier for them to absorb.
DON’T – Get your priest, the coach, the candy store clerk, and the guy next door to talk to your prospective college student. Avoid over-saturation of your point.
5. Contain Your College Counseling
DO – Encourage your aspiring college student to talk to a college counselor and go to college fairs.
DON’T – Go to every one of those appointments. Let them attend the college fair alone and see what they can get from it. After all, they’ll likely be on their own pretty soon.
6. You Are Thinking of WHICH School?
DO – Help organize where your son or daughter is applying. It is not overstepping to make sure that he or she is not just applying on the common application or to just one or two safety schools or one or two really competitive schools. Give them some guidance.
DON’T – Proscribe exactly where your son or daughter needs to go. Don’t focus on any one school just because it is considered the best in one category or because you are a legacy there (or because it is close by… *sniff*).
7. Money Matters
DO – Help investigate scholarship and financial aid options. Most schools can be accessible with the right aid or scholarship packages.
DON’T – Talk relentlessly about scholarships opportunities.
8. Road Trip
DO – Organize a trip to visit schools if possible.
DON’T – Go halfway. Investigate beforehand and see if your child can visit classes, attend tours or talk to influential coaches or professors.
9. Be Polite
DO – When visiting campus, feel free to introduce yourself to coaches or professors.
DON’T – Bribe, cajole, call or write additional or supplemental material to recruiters or professors that “helps explain” anything.
10. Signed, My Mother
DO – Look over your child’s essay to make sure it seems to be answering the topic question, follows protocol (like word limits), and then give constructive criticism.
DON’T – Write (or rewrite all of) the essay for them. If they need outside help, there are services available with reputable writers who can assist with critiques and know a great deal about what admissions officials are looking for in the essay.
Obviously all this advice lives on the side of caution — the do’s are almost universally in the camp of being helpful, and the don’ts are in the area of “don’t drive yourself, your college kid, or any professors/admissions officers crazy.” The college application process is a stressful enough time already.
In short, do take this time to celebrate your son or daughter’s determination and the big leap forward. But don’t add to the stress by acting overzealous, possessive or overbearing.
And everything will go well.
About the Author
Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.
Music Can Keep Kids Learning Over The Summer
This is just one of the excellent articles in Homeschool.com’s virtual magazine – Summer Fun
Summer is here and parents are looking for ways to keep their kids entertained, engaged and learning. Playing a musical instrument is a great way to keep kids in learning mode. When students play a musical instrument, they are doing more than polishing their skills on their particular instrument. They are using their brains in ways that will boost their ability to learn when they return to school for the fall. One of the biggest benefits of music lessons and practice is requiring kids to use their problem-solving skills. Learning to play a piece of music requires them to break down complex passages into smaller parts, identify the core problem and come up with a solution. These are the same skills students use to solve problems in math and other academic subjects.
I teach violin at the St. Louis School of music and I know that not all families have the time, resources and or interest to devote to private instruction and buying or renting a violin, cello or piano. For these families, I have found the ocarina is a great instrument to introduce kids to music. It is small enough to fit in a pocket, inexpensive and easy to play. Even young kids can pick out simple tunes quickly through online lessons or method books.
The ocarina is also small enough for kids to take it with them wherever they go, to the park, pool or on vacation. And it has a pleasant sound, even in the hands of a beginner.
Ocarinas belong to a class of instruments called vessel flutes that developed in various ancient cultures around the world. They are usually made of clay or plastic and played by blowing with various degrees of pressure into the ocarina and changing the pitch by fingering holes in the instrument.
The ocarina can be a springboard to other instruments that require a higher level of commitment. Kids can ease into learning some of the basic aspects of pitch and rhythm and develop confidence to inspire them to keep learning. If they show real promise and enthusiasm they can always go on to a more difficult, expensive and time-consuming instrument later.
The ability to learn on your own really sets the ocarina apart from many instruments. This is not something you would want to try with violin for instance, as it can be really painful for both the person trying to learn and those listening. Even with instruments considered easier to learn, like guitar, beginners should seek out a teacher. If you are going to do something, aim to do it well because you won’t get the same benefits if you do it badly.
Whatever instrument you and your child choose, get your child in the habit of practicing on a daily basis. For the more challenging instruments, I encourage students to continue their lessons with their teacher over the summer. Those who skip summer lessons end up having to go back and re-learn things in the fall.
Here are some tips for parents who want to introduce their child to a musical instrument:
See which instrument excites your child. It’s never a good idea to just pick an instrument and tell the child they are going to learn it. Taking your child to a concert is a great way to introduce a number of instruments at once. If they like a particular one, take them to a music store or someplace they can touch and try it. If they are not enthralled with a particular instrument, show them others until you find one that sparks their interest. They should like the sound of the instrument and want to play it.
Find your child’s favorite style. Don’t be disappointed if classical violin or piano is not your child’s favorite. They can get the same benefits from learning various different styles of music. The idea is not to be too narrow or limiting but to let your child explore.
Make music part of your home life. Kids that have come to me from homes where families don’t sing or listen to music regularly often learn a lot slower than those who enjoy music on a daily basis. If a mom has been singing to her child since infancy, the child will have a more developed sense of pitch and timing. Music is like a language. If you are really immersed in it, constantly listening to it, you are going to pick up the language much more quickly than by studying it as a separate part of your life.
Make the timing right. When a child can begin learning an instrument depends on the instrument and the child. For violin I recommend most students start between 3 and 5 before they have school and other activities vying for their attention. Depending on methodology, 4 or 5 is a good time to start learning piano or guitar. Guitar, violin and cello come in fractional small sizes suitable for little ones. Students need to be a bit older for most wind instruments — about 7 for flute, about 9 for clarinet. The exception is the ocarina, which can be started as young as 3. Of course children can start singing as babies.
Be involved with your child. It’s important for parents to be involved with their child’s music practice. Younger children especially won’t know how to practice without some parental guidance. Kids often want to play through a song – if they get stuck at a certain spot, their inclination is to go back to the beginning. Parents can help by encouraging them to work on the difficult parts separately, and then put them back into the song.
With music, parents have the wonderful opportunity to share with their children an activity that is creative, stimulating, inspiring and fun. Music is also the perfect avenue for children to learn the discipline, skills and confidence that can help them in academics and all areas of life. Learning to play music well builds creativity, persistence problem-solving, and other skills that can help children in schoolwork and in life. Regardless of the instrument, every kid should get the opportunity to experience the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning to play.
About the Author: Laura Yeh is a performer and music educator trained in the Suzuki method of instruction who teaches violin and ocarina at the St. Louis School of Music to children as young as 3 and adults. Laura and her husband Dennis have collaborated with ocarina makers around the world to produce new models of the ocarina, an easy-to-learn wind instrument with ancient roots. They have designed and produced many unique and innovative ocarinas sold by STL Ocarina (http://www.stlocarina.com).
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Homeschoolers – Welcome Birds into Your Backyard!
This is just one of the interesting/informative articles in Homeschool.com’s virtual magazine, Summer Fun
Includes #97 of Homeschool.com’s Great Summer Resource: 101 Things To Do This Summer list – Build bird feeders and baths.
Summer can be an exciting time to see a large variety of birds and it’s a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the birds that call your area home.
As homeschoolers, birds offer an easy opportunity to delve into Nature Study as they are easily accessible for observation. And it brings a great deal of satisfaction and confidence when your child is able to point out a bird based on its appearance or call. They become like well-known friends as their names are called out and their voices are recognized.
As we started making a focused effort to identify the birds around us, we found that we had taken these interesting creatures for granted. We had grown so used to hearing them that they faded into the background a bit. But we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the cheery song we began hearing each morning was a Robin’s morning song. And a chirpy little song that I had long associated with a memory from my childhood of my grandmother calling it a “tweety-bird” was actually a Black-Capped Chickadee. Observing birds really opens up your eyes and makes you more conscious to the beauty and intrigue that we so easily pass by every day.
Bringing the Birds to You
While it’s normally very easy to find birds to observe, you might want to encourage birds to come to a certain area so it’s easier to see them or to draw in additional species of birds.
A simple way to do this is to set up a feeding station or a water bath. It’s important that you place your feeder or bath somewhere that you can see easily but that is close to some trees or bushes so that the birds feel safe and are able to flit back and forth from tree to feeder.
All birds need plenty of fresh, clean water and many enjoying bathing in it as well. Bird baths are available at Garden Centers and many other stores. You can also look at thrift shops or yard sales. And they can easily be made using a large shallow basin with sloping sides. You can find these at thrift shops and garage sales as well. You don’t want the water to be more than two inches deep and the sides must slope. Another very simple and inexpensive way to make one is to buy a large terra cotta saucer and place it on a wide tree stump.
The Birds and Blooms website has great ideas for making affordable bird feeders. A couple of our favorites from their site are the feeders that use an old tomato cage to make a frame to hold a feeding tray and those that use an embroidery hoop and window screen mesh to make a feeder.
You can also plant sunflowers as a fun bird-feeder project. These impressive flowers are fun to grow and provide food and a feeder all-in-one later in the Summer/Fall.
You may want to keep a Bird-Sighting Journal. Even a simple notebook with names and dates can be fun to refer to in the future. Or you can buy a sketch book to draw in and make notes of your sightings. We even keep a Pinterest page called Birds We Have Seen. It makes it easy to quickly scan through the images to find a certain bird we want to find out more about or confirm if that is the bird we heard or saw.
We like to keep a bird identification handbook close to our main window so we can easily look up the birds we see. In addition we use websites like allaboutbirds.org to identify birds. It’s been helpful to us to determine what they are based on their calls which are available on the website. Finally, a pair of binoculars are also really nice to have close at hand. Again, for those who are budget conscious, handbooks and binoculars can often be found at yard sales and thrift shops if you keep an eye out for them.
So whether you go out and buy the supplies you need or use some crafting skills, adding bird-watching to your list of summer activities can be fun and rewarding!
Here are a few more links for ideas –