January 19, 2015
Every year, Homeschool.com publishes our Top 100 Educational Websites. This list is informational, helpful, and a resource homeschoolers look forward to receiving.
Our 2015 list published today!
We sure hope you enjoy our Top 100 Educational Websites of 2015!
January 16, 2015
This is a Homeschool.com product review. All our reviews can be seen here.
Northwest Florida and the Gulf of Mexico—a really idyllic area for family vacationing! Picturesque coastlines, white sugar sands, interesting wild life (I saw my first bald eagle, and I loved watching the dolphins in the ocean!), educational activities, and more—really, you can’t beat the area! But where will you stay? Hotels can be so expensive.
ResortQuest® by Wyndham Vacation Rentals provides top-quality vacation properties that are perfect for homeschooling families (I like having a kitchen, it saves on meals—and a home/condo is so much more comfortable than a hotel room). Some are even pet friendly (our dog LOVES the beach!). Plus, many have amenities (indoor/outdoor pools, fitness centers and direct beach access, to name a few—depending on the chosen location) and many have amazing views (I like being right on the sand, don’t you?).
Plus, there are so many fun/educational things to do in Northwest Florida. In addition to the beach, there are numerous water sport adventures. At the HarborWalk Village in Destin, you can strap on a water-propelled jetpack and shoot 30 feet above the water. You can parasail with a group of friends and soar up to 800 feet in the air three at a time, tandem, or by yourself. Want something a little tamer? Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park in Destin, was voted one of America’s best water parks by the Travel Channel®. Or you can visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – where kids can see dolphins, alligators, sea turtles, penguins and more (of course, they might see some of these in the wild as well!). The Southern Star Dolphin Cruises are a blast—they’re certainly memorable—your kids will love them. The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station is very educational as is the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. If you have a need for speed, you can spend a day at Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway and enjoy all of the twists and turns of high-speed racing. Or, you can always play a round of golf – many courses in the area have received honors from Golf Magazine®, Golf Week®, Golf Digest® and Travel+Leisure®. Want more? At Milton’s Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center, you can zip line through numerous platforms hovering over white sands and clear rivers. Also, we went snorkeling-which was a blast. Just being on….or in the water was so nice!
Plus, ResortQuest offers a Privileges program for their guests which includes discounts on many of the above activities, as well as on spa treatments, bike rentals, food and more. These benefits make a beach vacation even more affordable.
ResortQuest offers everything needed to create a memorable, idyllic, and educational vacation. And I have to say….I LOVE the beaches of Northwest Florida.
January 15, 2015
Strategies for Educating Children with ADD/ADHD
Written by Crystal Pratt
Children with ADD/ADHD (hereafter referred to as ADHD) are creative, energetic, imaginative, and resourceful people. They have a wonderful spirit. You wouldn’t trade your child’s personality for the world. But sometimes, there’s school work to be done. Sometimes, you really need your child to sit still. Sometimes you really just want a few minutes of peace. Or is that just true at my house?
Learning doesn’t have to be a chore for the ADHD student. It seems to me to be such a waste to bore these wonderful minds when it just takes a little bit of creativity on our part to keep them going. In my eighteen years of being a parent to an ADHD child, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve taught public school classrooms with students all over the ADHD spectrum. Regardless of the severity of their condition or the presence of medication or other therapies, I have found some strategies that really helped my ADHD kids to become better learners.
If you’re reading this article, you are probably already aware of the characteristics and symptoms of a child with Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder. You may notice impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, disorganization, hyper-focus, or forgetfulness. You may have noticed these symptoms even before your child was of school age. Then, when he or she starts school, you begin to have your concerns verified when you notice failure to complete assignments in a timely manner, disorganized work habits, or producing messy or careless work. However, homeschooling does not have to be a struggle for the ADHD child or the parent.
Some of the strategies I have found to be successful are:
- Allow for breaks in the lesson or homework. Let the child get up and move around.
- Ask yourself, is it really necessary for my child to be sitting to do his work? Will he get the same result if I allow him to stand to do his work?
- Provide as many hands-on activities as possible.
- Teach to your child’s strengths and talents.
- Keep things in perspective. Remember that your child is not doing any of these things to misbehave.
- Minimize distractions. I found that something at simple as asking my son write with a regular pencil as opposed to a mechanical pencil made a huge difference. He liked to distract himself by playing with the lead.
- Develop a regular routine.
- Give your student something to hold in her hands while you give instructions. Give her a piece of modeling clay or let her color while you read aloud. She will actually absorb more of what you say when she has something to do.
- Use a written plan or contract with your child. This gives your child a concrete goal.
- Place something for them to touch in their work area. A piece of Velcro works well. It provides the student something to focus on and keeps the impulse to wander around at bay.
- Keep the work area free of mess. A messy area will tend to overwhelm the child. He’ll get the feeling that he doesn’t really know where to start.
- Use binders for subjects to help your child keep her work organized. Organization is one of the toughest things that ADHD people come up against.
- Most importantly, be flexible. One of these tips may work one day and not the next. You’ll need to mix things up to keep your ADHD child from becoming bored.
As parents, we know that just because something works with one child, it may not work with another. It’s always a great idea to keep a bag of tricks on hand. What strategies have you used to work with your children who struggle with ADHD?
Crystal Pratt is an employee of Calvert Education Services. She has been involved in education for 20 years. Crystal is a certified teacher, a writer, and a lover of all things that sparkle.
For more teaching tips and strategies for educating ADD/ADHD children, watch a recorded video of Calvert’s free webinar, Inspiring Struggling Students: Strategies to Support Students with ADHD
January 14, 2015
Cultural Jambalaya offers award-winning, educational DVDs for teachers and parents, which include global images and narratives highlighting fascinating people and intriguing cultures. Supported by an online study guide, the videos are a resource for teachers and parents to engage students in a variety of subjects, including social studies, geography, history, diversity and language.
You can watch the videos online free of charge. The study guides are free of charge as well.
Just thought you’d like to know.
January 13, 2015
Writing Engaging History for Young Adults
A Guest Blog Post Written by Dr. Leigh A. Arrathoon
Leigh is an award-winning author. One her websites is www.booksforhomeschooling.com which offers both e-books and hard-copy books for homeschooling History and Language Arts, along with accompanying FREEstudy guides.
Social Studies were deadly boring! My teacher used to sit on top of his desk and argue current events with three students, while the rest of us squirmed in our seats. In college, I learned that history could be fun when you read diaries and private letters, but the textbooks were still unpalatable. The academic authorities for my own historical fictions would have been inaccessible to most teens. This is why I opted for adventure books when I was asked to write histories for the Michigan public schools in 1999.
My first attempt was a series for ages 8-10, called Jody’s Michigan Adventures. It was about a little boy named Kevin Murphy, whose mother talks him into writing down his sister’s imaginative accounts of their family trips. Kevin, who wants to become an historian, takes his mother’s advice to combine his analytical view of these excursions with his sister’s undisciplined tales of adventure. Kevin’s mother, of course, is teaching him what every fiction writer needs to do: to temper his unbridled imagination with logic and facts. The books were a big success for a tiny press. We sold over 100,000 copies.
I decided to make Kevin grow up and write about his teenage adventures from the point of view of an older man. And this was the birth of The Journals of Kevin Murphy. In these books (for ages 11-16), Katie, the little sister, is relegated to the background, although imagination still plays a major role. A good deal of Euro- and Native American History runs throughout the books, along with important life lessons, and language arts (French in Vol. I, Summer of the Bear; Spanish in Vol. II, Son of Fireheart, Native American languages in all three books, and, of course, English). The surface of each tale offers an adventure in which the young reader can become involved.
In the award-winning Summer of the Bear, it’s the mystery of the Bearwalker; in Son of Fireheart, it’s the challenge of helping an Indian boy, whose only reading experience has been the Fireheart sections of the Spider Man Comics, to discover his true identity and to become a valuable member of the tribe from which he has been separated. And, in Vol. III, Eagle from the Dawn, it’s a spectacular trip across the Rockies, during which Kevin must learn to let go of his idolized horse, Tipyahlanah Kaupu (Eagle from the Dawn), so that he can pursue meaningful human relationships.
Of course, I would have loved for my young readers to be able to extract all of the history and language from these texts by themselves, but, as a teacher, I realize that it takes a facilitator to guide the child through the multi-levels of my texts. What I guess is that, at least the reader’s imagination is caught by the adventure, and his interest in the history is engaged. At the end of the day, we grown-ups don’t teach every fact we wish we could. What we are really doing is showing our children the best way to learn what they will eventually need to know and how to ask the right questions. That is probably the best result any teacher can expect.
Dr. Leigh Arrathoon is a Spanish instructor at Rochester College, which is a Christian school in Rochester, Michigan. She teaches French, Spanish, and English privately and on the internet. If you would like to know more about her, her complete biography is available on Amazon, where she has a number of electronic books and stories for sale, and on her websites: www.booksforhomeschooling.com and ebooksandbooksinprintforkids3-25.com. Summer of the Bear won the Michigan State History Award for books for Children and Young Adults in 2007.
January 12, 2015
Lulujr.com – Three Benefits to Engaging Your Child in Creative Story Writing
As parents (and as our children’s educators), we are always looking for new ways to engage our children’s minds. Story writing has always come with many benefits for children, but sometimes we can struggle in finding new ways to encourage them to get their ideas on paper. First off, it’s important to know that there are three key benefits to engaging your child in creative story writing.
Writing gets the creative juices flowing like nothing else. There is a lot of freedom a child feels when they have a blank page and something to write with. A child’s mind is already a thing of boundless curiosity and creativity, but it’s up to you to nurture and guide their creativity so they can learn to harness it as a skill.
Creative writing strengthens literacy by helping children learn through practice and helping them to develop an appreciation of reading other stories and starting to understand the skills needed to weave a story together cohesively and seamlessly.
Barbara Kingsolver said, “Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.” What a great lesson for any child. There’s no better way to teach this lesson than to encourage your child to create their own stories and share them. Providing children with the ability to express themselves through the written word at a young age opens myriad possibilities for self-expression, while simultaneously building confidence and reassurance in their own communication abilities.
Now the question you might ask yourself is how to get a child excited about writing? That’s where we come in. Lulu Jr.’s Education Programs offer free, online book-publishing programs designed to support writing and language arts curriculum through project based learning, communication and collaboration. The result is a finished book either authored independently by your child or authored collaboratively with your other children or their friends. Either way, the experience is unique and gets children excited to write their own stories so they can see themselves as published authors. To learn more about these programs, visit www.lulujr.com and click on the Teachers tab.
Be sure to explore Lulu Jr.’s Education Programs. They look forward to helping your child’s stories come to life!
January 9, 2015
Kitchen Table Passport is great for families with kids 10-16 who are interested in exploring international topics and experiences from home.
An international box of the month, Kitchen Table Passport is a great way to get together and see, taste, smell, and enjoy learning about another culture – from people who have actually been there!
Each month, you’ll get a box featuring a different culture including:
* 10 double-sided cards with amazing photography and interesting “who knew?” facts and information
* Recipe for a local dish
* Unique herb & spice mix to get started
* Shopping list for basic ingredients to make the dish (chicken, noodles, etc)
* Local souvenirs for 6 and 12 month subscribers
You can explore the world right from your kitchen table!
Subscriptions range from $17.95/month for 12 month subscription (billed once up front) to $19.95/month.
Note that currently they are only shipping with the continental US 48 states.
January 8, 2015
The Parable of the Sapling
A Case for ‘Sheltering’
This is a Guest Post Written by Austin Pruitt
Peer pressure dominates our society, children and adults alike. However, I believe that children are affected the most by negative peer pressure because they are young, impressionable, vulnerable, and their emotional and spiritual “roots” have not yet had time to fully develop. A child can be compared to a sapling that is trying to grow into a tree. While a sapling is still small and weak, it can be destroyed by even gentle rainfall or by an animal that unknowingly steps on it while running through the field. A sapling must have an extremely safe and nurturing environment while it’s in the initial stages of growing. Some gardeners will insist on giving a young sapling a greenhouse initially so that it can grow; a shelter where the elements are controlled and are therefore perfect for healthy growth.
After a few years of growing in the greenhouse, a saplings’ roots have had a chance to stretch deeper into the soil and the trunk has become thicker and taller – the sapling is now a small tree. Now, even heavy rainfall won’t harm the tree. Rather, the rain only gives the tree more nourishment so that it can continue to grow taller and stronger. At this point, the gardener decides to relocate the tree from the greenhouse to the open field. But, even though the small tree is stronger and thus gets to develop outdoors, a small chain-link fence will sometimes be erected to form a circle around the tree for added protection. Also, even though the gardener can rely on the rain to provide nourishment, he or she must also remain constantly vigilant as the tree continues to grow.
More time passes, and the tree has now grown to become 30 feet tall with roots that extend 30 feet into the ground. At this point, it’s important to remember that even though the tree is 10,000 times stronger than it was as a sapling, that doesn’t mean it’s not indestructible. A hurricane, or a tornado, or a monsoon could still uproot the tree. No living thing on this earth is indestructible. Even so, now that the gardener has nurtured and protected this tree for many years, he or she can be at peace in knowing that the tree will, most likely, be able to stand strong and weather the storms of life for decades to come. If it weren’t for the gardener, chances are that the tree would not survived this long. But now, the need for the gardener has passed.
I wrote this parable in order to illustrate a basic principle. I want parents to not be ashamed when they provide a more “sheltered” environment for their younger children. Shelter is, after all, one of the basic human needs for survival (like food and water). All human beings, young and old, must have shelter, but children need it most of all.
As a parent, don’t be ashamed to use a “greenhouse” if necessary in order to give your “sapling” a chance to grow into a mighty tree. Once your child has developed deep roots and is ready to take on the hail-storms of life, then you can stand back and watch with pride as your little “sapling” stands firm and faces life’s trials with fortitude and resilience. When your child is the President of the United States you can have the last laugh as you recall the snobby know-it-all education “experts” who called you a “helicopter parent”.
January 7, 2015
CommonLit.Org: Pushing Kids at All Reading Levels to Think Deeply
At www.commonlit.org, parents can access a FREE collection of short stories, news articles, historical documents, and excerpts of classic literature–all organized by the themes kids love to discuss.
CommonLit was made by a passionate group of middle school reading teachers whose aim is to develop the best free collection of high-quality, leveled short texts that can be easily paired together for a writing activity, group discussion, or analytical close reading. It is a “ground up” resource: the team loves feedback and incorporates suggestions from parents.
Check it out–and keep coming back–there are more texts coming soon!
January 6, 2015
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LEGO Women Scientists is a guest post written by Deborah Lee Rose, howtosmile.org
Computer Engineer Barbie, meet LEGO women scientists. Last summer a new, limited edition LEGO® Research Institute went on sale including a paleontologist with her dinosaur skeleton, magnifying glass and microscope, a chemist with her mini-lab and flasks, and an astronomer with her telescope and star chart. The set was the brainchild of geochemist Ellen Kooijman from the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Her design was greenlighted after it garnered at least 10,000 votes from fans on the LEGO Ideas website.
The set has quickly sold out on certain sites, but an online petition effort is trying to get the Research Institute reissued, so it can become a permanent part of the LEGO pantheon–many products are currently available on Amazon. One aspect of the set would need fine tuning though, says Kooijman, who heads a national laboratory at the Swedish museum. “I’m surprised they didn’t give the chemist protective gloves. In my personal version I will definitely change that, because safety comes first!”
Kooijman has been building with LEGO® bricks for more than ten years. The idea for a set of women scientist figures came to her while she was surfing the web for inspiration.
“As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available LEGO sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures. It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female minifigures in interesting professions to make our LEGO city communities more diverse.”
Toys like the new women scientist figures help encourage girls to pursue science careers, Kooijman believes. “Girls should build up confidence at an early age that they are perfectly equipped for a scientific career. It is very stimulating to hear about examples of successful women in science and their accomplishments. Good female role models may make it easier for girls to imagine that they could achieve a similar thing.”
Kooijman has been interested in natural sciences since she was very young. She was particularly fascinated by astronomy when her parents took her to a planetarium.
“I think it is important to encourage children to ask as many questions as possible about the world around them,” she urges parents and teachers. “A good way of stimulating interest in science is by showing how much fun it can be, for example by doing science-related crafts projects, or going to science and technology activity museums aimed at children where they learn by doing fun experiments.”
In the laboratory, Kooijman and her team do chemical analyses of all kinds of Earth materials such as rocks, sediments, soils and water, as well as bones and synthetic materials. At Howtosmile.org, one of the most popular of all activities is LEGO® Chemical Reactions. This activity uses LEGO® bricks to represent atoms bonding into molecules and crystals. The activity has a “wet lab” chemistry experiment (mixing baking soda and calcium chloride with phenol red indicator), followed by a “LEGO lab” modeling phase that includes writing formulas using chemical notation.
Both girls and boys can have fun while they’re learning with LEGO activities at Howtosmile.org. They can explore chemical reactions, investigate structures and properties of the nanoworld, design robots, create art, engineer castles, models NASA’s Kepler mission to discover new exoplanets, and even recreate the science of favorite stories like The Three Little Pigs.
If you can’t get hold of the new LEGO set for your favorite learner, girl or boy, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a Howtosmile.org national partner, publishes an annual Gift Guide for Girls. This list recommends the best gifts “that defy stereotypes, encouraging girls (and why not boys, too?) to explore the whole range of hobbies and careers including sports, science, and engineering.”