BoomWriter – Join for FREE and Bring Vocabulary Instruction to the 21st Century!
BoomWriter’s easy to use and interactive group-writing tools are an ideal fit for homeschool co-ops and let students develop and enhance their writing, reading, vocabulary, and peer assessment skills—collaboratively! BoomWriter’s award-winning tools are perfect for homeschoolers ages 6-18 and can be used with a variety of curricula including Social Studies/History, Science, ELA, and more.
WordWriter, our interactive and easy-to-deliver vocabulary development tool, is the perfect way to start out using BoomWriter with your homeschoolers! WordWriter introduces you to the BoomWriter collaborative writing and voting process with simple, single submission activities.
Begin by providing homeschoolers with assignment directions in the Guidance Notes, students will see this when they start to write their entries as well as the list of vocabulary words you have chosen for them to include in their writing. The Word Bank only needs at least one word to be included, so feel free to include as many terms, dates, people, or phrases for your homeschoolers to incorporate as you like, or have the focus be on just one keyword to master. When your homeschooler types the requested vocabulary, the word will then be highlighted in their piece as well as checked off their Word Bank!
After writing his or her individual entry, students then submit their work for your review and approval. You can assess each entry and choose to approve or request revisions, as well as provide individualized feedback, before initiating the voting portion of the process. Students will then review up to four random, anonymous submissions of their peers at a time and cast a vote for what they believe is the best version. Students may also have the opportunity to cast more than one vote, depending on the number of entries. A winning submission will be determined and that is the end of the activity—fun, fast, and easy!
Throughout the entire process of writing, submitting, peer assessing, and voting, students will accrue Boomer Bucks allowing them to customize and/or purchase virtual goods for their personal Boomer Avatar. This gamification of the program is sure increase participation and interest levels, while instilling a love of writing and understanding of important vocabulary goals. WordWriter needs just 5 participating students for the fun to begin—ideal for co-ops or any other home-based learning groups.
WordWriter also features Trending Words—revolutionizing vocabulary instruction, it allows you to easily create vocabulary for your homeschoolers from your most trusted source for curriculum—other educators and homeschooling parents on BoomWriter! Trending Words crowdsources terms that have been used in WordWriter activities with other students and displays the most popular vocabulary words being taught for that month, in real-time, on a grade-by-grade basis. Using Trending Words, you can easily create vocabulary curriculum for your homeschoolers based on top words being taught right on BoomWriter!
WordWriter enhances students’ vocabulary development through application in their own written work and it proves an effective tool that allows you to gauge students’ understanding levels individually and as a whole group. Ready to start collaborating in the co-op? Join for free today! BoomWriter’s group-writing tools are sure to increase your child’s engagement levels and understanding around key areas of study while instilling a confidence and love of writing!
About BoomWriter Media
BoomWriter Media is redefining what it means to tell stories, through its two collaborative writing platforms: award-winning BoomWriter, for education, and newly launched Skrawl, a fanfiction-focus writing service for everyone. BoomWriter Media’s unique approach enables writers, in all areas of life, to collaborate and compete for pieces of stories. Readers can follow projects as they progress and watch competitions happen in real-time. Through the two writing solutions, BoomWriter Media has been used in over 60 countries, had over 2,000 titles published in 2014, and has a presence in over 20,000 classrooms. For more information, please visit http://www.boomwriter.media.
Writing Strategies – Choosing a Topic
This is a guest blog post written by Crystal Pratt.
A sure-fire way to produce a look of panic on a student’s face is to tell them to get out their writing journal and write about whatever they want. Sure, there are a random few that are willing to take on this task, but more often than not, the kids will just freeze in place. But it’s not just kids that have this problem. Whether you’re planning a lesson or writing for yourself, you’ll often find that choosing a topic is the hardest part.
Of course, there are times when you want to give your child a topic to write on. You might want an autobiography on a famous scientist or a response to a literature assignment. On the other hand, there are times when you want independent writing to take place. It’s good exercise for the brain. But how do you get them to start? Suddenly, a blank piece of paper becomes terrifying.
Some of the tips that I’ve found useful in guiding my students (and quite often myself) in choosing topics are as follows:
Keep a notebook or journal with a page or two dedicated to writing topics. If an idea pops into your head, write it down. You may find that you never use that topic (because hopefully, after awhile, you’ll have several to choose from). However, before you know it, you’ll have a list waiting for you when you’re ready to sit down and start writing.
Five minutes of free writing. My students found this method challenging at first, but after a few times, they really looked forward to doing it. The tough part of this is that your pencil cannot stop moving for the entire time. (I generally chose five minutes, but you may want to shorten this time period for younger children). The fun part is that you can write about anything you want. You should write about whatever is in your head at the time. Allow a lot of freedom in this area. I’ve seen students make lists of their friends or what they would like for lunch. They might copy words off of a poster on the wall. I did not place restrictions on this as long as the pencil kept moving. Keep this page in your writing journal for future reference.
Draw a tree. The trunk of your tree is your base. Start with the first topic that comes into your head. Begin to draw branches on your tree by adding words related to that topic. You may find out that one of your branches becomes your actual topic.
Create a waterfall. I found this especially helpful when I wanted my students to write historical fiction. The top of your waterfall is your “big” topic. For example’s sake, let’s say you are studying the Revolutionary War in history. The Revolutionary War will be the top of your waterfall. Many, many topics can rain down from your waterfall: George Washington, liberty, Delaware, the Boston Tea Party, Green Mountain Boys, etc.
Don’t be afraid to just let you child write in the moment. Sometimes it’s easier to just write. Drafts are not bad things. I write many, many drafts of articles, blog posts, etc. that never see the light of day. That’s OK. The important exercise is the practice.
These methods should keep you and your child armed with a list of ready-made topics whenever the time comes for independent writing. The more often you employ these tricks, the easier choosing a topic will become. I wish you the best of luck in your writing journeys.
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 information on working with students who have writing challenges, including dysgraphia, watch a recorded version of our free webinar, Inspiring Struggling Students: Writing Challenges.
Don’t forget to sign up for SDAccelerate’s free 7 day trial
7 Tips for Homeschooling an Independent Learner
It is both fulfilling for your child to learn independently and can free up your time so you can focus on things you need to get done. You might even be able to find some time to spend on yourself!
Here are 7 tips for homeschooling an independent learner:
- Organize your homeschool in a way that is conducive to independent learning. Buy some magazine holders or file/paper trays that are stackable. Organize them for each of your kids by name and subject, and label them in the same fashion. Keep all the workbooks and materials in separate subject holders, so each child will have their own set of holders with materials for each subject. This way your kids can easily find what you assign them to work on. It will help empower them to take learning into their own hands if things are easy to find.
- Plan ahead and make checklists. The more things you plan ahead of time, the easier it is for your child to figure out what to do next. Making checklists is a great way to foster independent learning by setting clear objectives and expectations. Your child knows what assignments are on the list, and they will feel empowered as they tackle assignments and check them off the list. For younger children, you can make their checklist picture-based.
- Independent work is important. Plan assignments that don’t require you to assist. This gives children the opportunity to think for themselves, which is one of the most important parts of being an independent learner. You know those moments when you’re just amazed at the profound things your kids say. You’ll have many more of those moments if you give them time to focus on learning independently.
- Take a hands-off approach. During these times when your children are doing independent school work, don’t intervene. If your child has a question let them try to come up with an answer first. If they absolutely can’t move forward without an answer, then help them. It’s important to give your children time to think things through and arrive at the answer on their own. You may be surprised at how many times they’ll be able to figure things out on their own.
- Don’t worry. If you’re panicking after reading #4, stop panicking! Trust that your kids are going to be okay if you let them work and play independently (with supervision for younger kids, of course). Letting them learn and solve problems on their own will help them grow and feel empowered.
- Check up on your kids. After they complete independent work, review it. Make sure your child is on the right track and has completed what’s on their check list, and hold them accountable for things you’ve assigned. This is the perfect time to go over unanswered questions your kids might have.
- Use a curriculum that doesn’t require 100% of Mom’s time. If you use resources and plan assignments for your children to work on independently, it also provides you with extra time to get things on your plate done, and you might even be able to fit a little “me” time in there! Don’t choose things that require you to spend big amounts of time teaching, especially when there are so many resources to do this for you.
Standard Deviants Accelerate
A flexible, individualized, video-rich learning system, optimized for learning on-the-go. Standard Deviants Accelerate works great to support these 7 tips for homeschooling an independent learner!
Educational videos at the beginning of each lesson teach the topics in a way that’s entertaining and fun, so mom doesn’t need to spend as much time on instruction. Students can go at their own pace, while easily navigating through a series of well-rounded assignments. A fully online program accessible anytime, anywhere there’s a web connection, Standard Deviants Accelerate is the perfect supplemental tool for homeschooling an independent learner.
Don’t forget to sign up for SDAccelerate’s free 7 day trial!
Post Author: Danielle Bloch, a Standard Deviants Accelerate writer.
Contact: Danielle Bloch
Phone: (866)386-0253 x207
Online Tools for Homeschooling Process Organization
One of the challenges that homeschooling families face is staying organized and on task every day. Selecting curriculum is part of this process, but it is also necessary to organize instruction time, track progress, maintain records, and ensure that kids have access to the resources that they need. Fortunately there are many great websites, apps, and software packages that can help homeschooling families meet their goals while maintaining their ability to educate their children the best way they can. If you are looking to add a little more organization to your daily homeschooling tasks, you may wish to consider one of these nifty utilities.
This homeschooling productivity app lets you access a variety of tools. These include:
Tracking and calculating grades
Monitoring the amount of time spent on each student
Measuring the progress of kids at different grade levels
Storing and updating lists of books
Creating, storing, changing, and deleting lesson plans
If you are part of a homeschooling family in a state with stringent reporting requirements, this app may be very helpful to you. Many families view this as a great, all in one, homeschooling organizational app.
This is a calendar app that each member of the family can use to stay connected with each other, and keep organized. If your homeschooling includes lots of field trips and independent study, this is a great way to make sure everybody knows where they are supposed to be at any given time without being intrusive. If your family is already using Google’s calendar app, Cozi can interface with your Google calendar accounts to ensure that everybody is up to date, online or off.
This is an iPhone based app that allows you to create and track lesson plans. If you are a homeschooling parent who prefers to create your own curriculum, this app can help you as you design lesson plans for your children.
This website was built to help families in setting educational goals, and then designing their homeschooling approach in order to meet those goals. The author of this website offers practical, real world advice that is tailored to each family’s individual needs.
The tools and templates page of this website is simply amazing. You will find access to help with classroom organization, calendars, motivational materials, along with templates that are designed for specific academic subjects.
Whether you are searching for curriculum ideas, organizational advice, or projects to work on with your kids, Pinterest is a great resource for any homeschooling family.
Take a moment to visit this website, and download the free homeschooling planner. This includes planners, calendars, unit studies trackers, assignment sheets, and even household chore lists. Fans of Flylady will love the fact that some of the features on this app are compatible with flylady.com.
Well, there they are. Great websites, apps, and other tools that are sure to help your family succeed in its homeschooling endeavors. Hopefully you will find that a few of these tools help keep your family, happy, productive, and of course always learning.
Laura Callisen is an experienced writer who spend a lot of time working with education and discovering new cultures. Actually she is as a blogger so sharing experience and explaining ideas is easy for her. If you want to contact Laura don’t hesitate to visit her Google+ or follow on twitter! Her blog is http://www.grabmyessay.com/laura-callisen.
Homeschooling and College Admissions – a survey for homeschoolers AND for colleges! Genius!!
My husband and I made the decision to home school our two sons in the middle of their 1st and 4th grade years. It was the end of January, testing season was about to begin again, and we decided enough was enough – it was time for a change. So we jumped into the deep end, knowing instinctively this was the right choice for our family, but without any real plan of what we were going to do or how we were going to do it. As I reflect back on those first few days and weeks, I can only describe them as a time of treading water, trying to stay afloat and “do it right”, without any capacity to think beyond the next week, let alone the coming months or years.
Flash forward to today, over four years later, and the scene is much different. We’re completely in the flow of homeschooling and can’t imagine any other lifestyle; we know that this was one of the best decisions (as scary as it was at first) we’ve ever made. Now, as our oldest son winds down what would be his 8th grade year, we have the ability to look ahead, and have realized it’s time to think about what our version of high school will be.
We already know that Sam will likely go to college – he’s very interested in science, particularly physics, and loves to build things, so he will probably need a college degree to pursue a career path that interests him. How do we help prepare him, though, as we continue homeschooling through high school? How can we support him (and his younger brother) to acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience they’ll need to apply to college? Will college admissions officers view his homeschooling background favorably?
Do these questions sound familiar? Maybe you’re asking them, too. If so, it turns out we’re not alone – these are common questions amongst home schooling families. How do I know? I asked.
For weeks now, home schooling families from all over the country have been sharing their questions and concerns about the college admissions process with Teach Your Own (a homeschooling support organization I founded a couple of years ago) and the Oregon Home Education Network, as part of a research project we designed and launched last December. As you might imagine, many of the questions parents are most interested in relate to one of two primary topics: the admissions process, and financial aid. Some of the questions submitted so far include:
- “What are the most important things for homeschoolers to put together? Are there types of exams and classes that are preferable?”
- “How can we best communicate our academic experience, knowledge and life lessons so that you can apply them to your entrance requirements?”
- “Are home schooled students more or less likely to receive financial aid?”
This is just a small sample of the wonderful and probing questions we’re receiving. If you’d like to participate in the homeschooler survey and share your questions and ideas, it’s not too late. Here’s the link (and please feel free to share it with others in your homeschooling community):
Based on this input from homeschoolers, we developed and recently launched the second phase of the project: gathering information from college admissions officers. As of last week, admissions officers and counselors from across the country began responding to a separate online survey we created just for them. Already the respondents represent a wide range of institutions and programs, from large well-known universities like MIT, to smaller, lesser-known liberal arts colleges. The trends in their responses and the great advice they’re sharing will be incredibly useful to so many families like ours!
In the next couple of weeks the fun will really begin, though, as we start conducting interviews with some of these college representatives, digging deeper into their ideas and recommendations for homeschooled students applying to college. We’ll be asking them questions like:
- “What activities and documents best demonstrate that a homeschooled student is a great candidate for your school?”
- “How do you view community college classes taken in high school?”
- “What are some common mistakes homeschooled applicants make?”
If you’re interested in learning more, hearing about the results of this project, or participating, you can do any of the following:
- Go to www.teachyourown.org and sign up to “follow” us. We’ll be releasing preliminary insights and results over the next few weeks and months, even before the final report is complete and made available for free this summer to anyone who is interested. We’ll also be posting the recorded admissions officer interviews and related resource links within the next few weeks.
- Complete the survey for homeschoolers (see link above). Share your questions and concerns with us, and we’ll include them in our research!
- Encourage admissions officers you know to complete their survey. Feel free to share this link with those you know who work in the college admissions field:
Our goal is to help every home schooled student interested in pursuing a college degree to gain acceptance into their college of choice. To do this we need to bridge the information and perception gaps between homeschooling families and the higher education community, ensuring that requirements and expectations are clearly communicated, and making the process easier for both sides. We look forward to having you join us!
The Arbor Day Foundation has a Nature Explore Program for children, complete with a Families’ Club, and more.
Although membership isn’t necessary, it only costs $10–and you receive TEN FREE TREES, in addition to The Tree Book, with planting and care information, the Arbor Day bimonthly newsletter, a membership card, and discounts on more than 100 varieties of trees.
And today is Arbor Day–what an appropriate day to check out all this organization and website have to offer.
Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!
Everyone likes trees….and we all know we need trees. But did you know the following?
- One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. U.S. Department of Agriculture
- There are between 60 and 200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and save $4 billion in energy costs. National Wildlife Federation
- Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save between 20 and 50 percent in energy used for heating. USDA Forest Service
- Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value. USDA Forest Service
Fun links that might be of interest–
And remember, fun learning is forever learning!
What a great concept to instill in our children. Yes, Earth Day is today, but it’s our responsibility EVERY day, to do what we can, to protect the Earth. Choose actions that you and your family can continue throughout the year, whether it’s recycling, composting, donating unwanted items to charity or any of the ideas listed here–http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0775891.html.
And of course, have fun with it, because fun learning is forever learning!
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Earth Day Pancakes
(Earth Day is April 22nd)
This is a guest blog post written by Renae C.
Homeschool fun – start your kids off right for Earth Day by making these pancakes in the shape of the planet Earth! Simply take your favorite pancake mix (I like Krusteaz) and follow the directions. Next, separate 2/3 of the mix into one bowl, and 1/3 of the mix in another. In the larger bowl add blue food coloring and add green to the smaller bowl.
You will want a piping bag, or if you don’t have one on hand (I didn’t), then you can make a temporary one yourself. You will need some wax paper, which you should fold in half, and roll it into a cone. Tape the sides and you’re done.
Now that you have mixed your batter and you have your piping bag, you will need to load the green batter into the bag. Then pour the blue batter onto your greased skillet, making sure it makes more of a circular shape than an oval one. Take your piping bag and pipe green batter in the shape of the continents (or as close as you can manage!).
Finish the pancakes the way that you regularly would. I made my pancakes in advance, so all I will have to do in the morning is pull them out, heat them up, and serve.
Renae C. is a homeschooling mom and blogger. She writes ‘Mostly Together Mommy’ (www.mtmommy.com).