Sitting here outside planning my biography study while my girls swim, I am reflecting on what I want to give them this year that they would not have the ability to experience in public school. First, they are already experiencing something that school cannot give them, a longer summer. Several public schools are closing early this week due to extreme heat in the NorthEast. How can children go to school when temperatures push 100 degrees? How can they learn? How is that healthy? My children swim, play and read in their cool air conditioned bedroom. Next week when we start full time, temperatures are expected to return to a normal cool 75!
In terms of their studies, though, what can I do to enhance their experience? Our reading program, Drawn into the Heart of Reading starts with Biography. My girls will choose their biographies from the library Tuesday afternoon. They will pick three or four and I will choose one for read aloud. I have Netflixed several biographies for us to view, the most exciting one being Biography: Harry Potter Kids. Our videos will directly correlate to their lessons. I am spending time browsing the internet and Netflix listings for documentaries that relate to all our areas of study. So far I have found what looks like an excellent series on ancient history: Jerusalem, Egypt, India, China, all the countries we have learned about in Story of the World! I have the opportunity to make visual media powerful. Since Grace is weather-obsessed and her science curriculum is built around the study of weather for this fall, I am having Storm Chasers from The Discovery Channel shipped today! Now that we are home and able to take advantage of instant streaming to my laptop and Wii, I have renewed our membership anticipating that we will fully take advantage of our $8.00 per month unlimited streaming plan.
In addition to video media, I plan on using as many software programs as possible. In the past, one of my frustrations was with the lack of technology instruction in my children’s public school. They had no keyboard instruction and minimal use of the laptops. I have written before about my fury upon learning that the only time Grace worked on the laptops during her entire third grade year was to practice on CMT test sites. Through a wonderful (free) program produced by the BBC, dance pad typing, both my girls are learning typing skills. To compliment their biography unit, they will be making bio-cubes for each book they read using a program at ReadWriteThink. I am looking into Microsoft’s Story Maker 3 but I am not sure if that program is compatible with my MacBook. I want my girls to know how to use a computer. I want them proficient in Word and able to independently search through google and other search engines. Last time I walked down the hallway of their school, I was surprised to see 6th grade work displayed in the hall handwritten with pictures literally cut and pasted to the paper. Some had word art for the title, but nothing more. I took note of when I toured a local magnet school. Their halls were lined with brochures, flyers, and reports that were visually pleasing to look at and the quality of both the writing and formatting was commendable. I want my girls to be able to conceptualize, plan, write and edit a report or piece of fiction, but then to take it one step further and create a document from their work and ultimately, create a technology portfolio.
Social media has also found a way into our homeschooling. Grace is blogging and Lilah is becoming interested in publishing her writing as well. I truly hope Lilah becomes a guest blogger on our sites as her writing is not only witty, it is infused with her voice. It is a perfect style for blogging. Through blogging Grace has established connections with other children living in different parts of the country, from Connecticut to Alabama. Originally she began blogging as a way to keep her school friends updated on what her new adventure was like. She wanted to show them what she was learning, how she was learning it and the trips and experiences she has along the way. She was disappointed originally that her friends from school were not receptive to her blog. This was short lived and quickly turned into excitement as many of her new homeschool friends were. She can easily get ten comments per post. We all encourage her to write more and post often. Through her blogging she is able to incorporate many of the technological skills I just mentioned. To produce one complete post, Grace uses digital photography, writing and editing, typing, manipulating the program blogger and internet safety skills. For her birthday I gave her the American Girl book: A Girl’s Guide to Internet Safety.
Gadgets are also a way for us to enhance our learning at home. The Nook has been a new addition to our home. I joke that the Nook will not read books FOR you, although I am told there is an app for that! But I hope that it will hook Grace into reading more often. Without a heavy book to tote around to appointments, in the car and in her backpack, the Nook certainly makes transporting reading material easier. Right now she is using it mostly for the internet browser, accessing it constantly for updated hurricane information. Lilah is not into technology as much as her sister. For now she is very satisfied working on my laptop and reading “old fashioned” paper books. The more I browse ebooks, the more I would like her to develop an interest in the Nook. As far as children’s books are concerned, the prices of an ebook are significantly less than a paperback book, and many are free. Keeping Lilah stocked with reading material is always a challenge!
These are just some of my desires for how I wish to enhance my child’s education this year. I would love to know if there is one program, devise or gadget that your homeschooling family just can’t live without!