Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stuff to Say

I've been talking to myself quite regularly lately.  Unfortunately it hasn't been publicly.  But really I do have stuff to say, just not enough time to say it in.  Here's what's coming up at Talking to Myself:
  • camping trip to Lake Dennison
  • remodel - our family comverts an office to a bedroom
  • Civil War reenactment
  • DH gets stitches and has a birthday
  • VBS - maybe...
  • more school prep stuff
  • nature
Yeah, hopefully I'll get to all those things.  Most of them require picture downloads and that takes time.  Right now I'm either climbing Mt. Washmore and getting the house back in order from our camping trip or spending my time with DH's parents who are here visiting for an extended stay.  Perhaps if I list the things I've been meaning to blog about here, I won't forget all the things I've been thinking about blogging about.

See you soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Hands On Carnival is Up!

The latest edition of the Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival has been hosted and posted by Kris over at Science of Relations.  You have got to see Kris's introductory video clip.  It's so cool.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Resource of the Day

I found this website while searching for recipes from the 1500's Spain.  Can you imagine?  A food timeline!  How wonderful!

Teaching Methods Do Make a Difference

Today I wanted to spotlight an article that Wade Hulcy forwarded to the KONOS Yahoo group written by his dear wife, Jessica.  I've also included a button to take you over to the KONOS website in case you want to check out the curriculum.  Enjoy!

Units: Teaching Methods DO Make a Difference

By Jessica Hulcy

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the brain at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Home schooling moms not only qualify for "first rate intelligence," but they could probably run IBM on the backstroke. In the morning, moms juggle a myriad of subjects and age levels as math, reading, and language arts are taught. However, in the afternoon, unit studies allow moms to stop juggling as the entire family gets together on the same page, on the same topic.

Units Integrate Subjects for Understanding

My mouth begins to salivate at the smell of chocolate, the sight of gorgeous wallpaper, and the thought of a tightly- woven unit. Studying a unit on attentiveness means studying a people whose very lives depended on being attentive: American Indians. Using a United States map, children draw in the varying regions where the differing groups of Indians lived. This forces the children to actually practice the main topic of the unit, attentiveness, as they are attentive to the distinctives of the different Indian groups.

Children build a fire without matches, cook and eat pemmican balls, read "Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and The Trail of Tears by John Ross, construct a travois for their dog to pull, learn sign language, dance Indian dances, sand paint, throw a clay pot, carve a totem pole, research Geronimo and Chief Joseph, and finally, write a paper comparing how the Plains Indians depended entirely on the buffalo while the Northwest Indians depended entirely on the cedar tree for their existence. Geography, poetry, literature, art, dance, cooking, construction, research, and writing are all used to study one topic.

By using all subjects to point back to a topic, the topic is reinforced over and over. By using all senses to experience a topic, the topic is reinforced again and again. Repetition builds retention. It also creates the big picture memory file for topics, thus giving students fuller understanding of the topic they studied.

Units Challenge Students at Their Own Level

A great Bible teacher, Henrietta Mears, once said, "God put the wiggle in children. Don't you dare try to take it out." As mother of four boys, that statement was a great relief to me. I could use the wiggle for my boys to learn instead of tying them to the chair. We could all sit round the kitchen table and talk about the seasons while we are studying a unit on orderliness.

However, talk is cheap. Much more memorable is to ask one child to dress for winter, another to dress for summer, and others to dress for fall and spring. The winter dresser wears snow suit, muffler, cap and mittens, ice skates and holds a cup of hot chocolate, while the summer dresser dons bathing suit, flip flops, sun glasses, beach towel and ball, and holds a glass of iced lemonade. Getting children up and out of their chairs capitalizes on, rather than fights against the springs in young children's bottoms.

Most parents see the clear benefits of doing activities. They realize no one learns computer skills without using the computer. However, parents are concerned that each child be challenged to his level. A single activity serves as the starting point, the vehicle for challenging each child to his personal level. The activity is like a bus ride, with each child getting off at a different stop.

In an attentiveness unit, ears and eyes, Helen Keller and Louis Braille, sound and music, and many more subjects are studied. A great activity is to dissect a cow's eyeball. The younger child simply dissects the eyeball and names the parts. The middle child dissects, names the parts, draws the parts and takes apart a discarded camera with his older brother. The oldest does everything the younger children did, but goes one step further by writing a paper comparing how the eye and the camera work. The starting point for each child is a single activity, yet each child is challenged to his own level, getting off the bus at his own stop.

Units allow families to study the same topics, doing many activities together, but each child is challenged at his own level.

Discovery Learning Creates Thinkers

Discovery learning is more than activities. It is activities plus kids thinking and kids testing what they think.

When classifying rocks in the orderliness unit, traditional teachers hold up a piece of feldspar, ask the child to repeat the name, then test to see if the child remembered. Much better is to give the child a canvas bag, hammer, chisel and goggles, and then turn him loose to collect, test, and identify his own rocks.

Discovery allows children to figure things out for themselves, practicing the process of thinking. Teaching children the way God designed them, full of motion, while urging them to think and test what they think yields wiggly thinkers.

Units Build Relationships and Families

Having birthed four wiggly thinkers, I teach units in self-defense. It is necessary for me to teach all that I can to as many as I can at the same time to keep from being institutionalized.

Besides preserving my sanity, units allow our whole family to learn together. Textbook-based education separates us, even when more innovative resources such as videos and computer software are used. Picture three children using traditional curricula. While one child is watching a biology video in the living room, another is writing a "weather" paper in the kitchen, and still another is reading about rocks in his room. Talk about a fragmented family - different rooms and different subjects!

Bible, science, history, literature, art, and music can be rolled together in multi-level units allowing families to actually come back to the same room and study the same topic. Units allow older children to read to younger children, to set up activities for younger children, and to teach younger children. This is great parental training for the older child and builds togetherness in the family.

There is a real temptation in the homeschooling movement to adopt classroom teaching methods using only workbook and textbook, tell-and-regurgitate teaching methods. Certainly, parents can point to stacks of filled-in workbook pages, but the real question is, "Did the child understand what he wrote, does he know in his mind what he studied, and can he apply it to real life?"

Units offer retention of material covered, challenge to individual potential and room to think for oneself. Not only can a mother stay sane, but she can also enjoy her afternoons with her family all on the same subject, all in the same room.
Do units make a difference in the long run?

Two years ago on my way to speak in North Carolina, I was stalled out due to bad weather for 7 hours at Chicago O'Hare airport. A young 22-year-old girl next to me was talking on her cell phone apparently having some family issues. I thought, "This is why God has me here. I will need to minister to this young girl." And, after she got off the phone, that is exactly what happened for the next hour. But then came a surprise; the conversation turned to me. "Why are you going to North Carolina?" she asked. I told her I had written a homeschool curriculum and I spoke on hands-on methods. "Really! I homeschooled. What is your curriculum?" When I answered, "KONOS," she screamed, "I did KONOS and loved it!" For several hours I listened to everything she had done in elementary school, how her mom had tweaked and personalized the KONOS activities making them their own experiences. As we finally boarded the plane and I said good-bye to the young girl, I was affirmed in what I already does make a difference not only in WHAT you teach your children, but also in HOW you teach your children.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sanity Sessions

When I first started homeschooling the support group that I joined was holding regular sanity sessions.  These were basically moms only events held in the evening once or twice a month.  At the time they were being held at a local restaurant but then they began rotating at people's houses and eventually I held one in my own home. 

I loved these events and gradually they were at my house more and more.  It became known that sanities (as we called them) were here once a month and usually on a particular day each month so it would be easy for everyone to remember.  We had a regular crowd and then a few new people would come now and again.  It was a fun way for moms new to homeschooling to meet other moms and glean wisdom from those with experience.  Our conversations ran from the hilarious to the uncomprehendably sad, from curriculum to potty training, from breast feeding to childbirth, from silly stories from our childhood to heartbreaking miscarriages.

When our homeschool group split, I continued to host sanity sessions to all who needed a night out.  They became open to any homeschooler or friend regardless of support group affiliation.  But families moved, moms got jobs and lifestyles changed due to graduating homeschoolers. Our numbers were sometimes small but we still had fun and meaningful conversations.  Sometimes when there were only a few of us we'd sit to watch an episode of Glenn Beck or we'd play a board game.

Now because of the various directions everyone has gone I have a hard time keeping everyone informed of the dates and times of upcoming sanity sessions (it seemed like there was no longer a good day of the week for the majority) and I stopped having them several months ago.  But I miss them.  I miss the conversation.  I miss meeting new homeschoolers.  I miss seeing the ladies that used to be around me all the time either on field trips, at sanity or doing co-ops together.

I write this for two reasons.
1.  No matter where you live, if you are part of a homeschool group that has opportunites to get together with other moms (without the kids) I want to encourage you to join in.  You will meet wonderful friends, some will become lifelong friends and you will gain encouragement in difficult times.  And if you think you don't need encouragement, maybe you're thinking everything's going fine for you and you don't have time for such frivolity, you might consider how someone else needs you.  I entreat you to put the date on your calendar, make it a priority and GO.
2.  I have added a section in the sidebar where I will post upcoming sanity sessions for homeschoolers in the area.  Sanity sessions are like open houses.  You don't need an invitation you just need to know it's here. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Preparing Your Hands-On Classroom

Are you excited?  Are you ready?  Only one month left!  For many of us school will begin in September and we use this month of August to prepare ourselves by lesson planning, organizing and purchasing supplies.  Due to some renovations we are making, I had the pleasure of getting started a bit early.  Our playroom/schoolroom has been changed into an office/schoolroom.  All the toys have been moved to the basement and my entire office has been squeezed into a corner of the now schoolroom. I've organized most of our school supplies so I thought it would be a great time to share with you what we use and how I've managed to store it all in a small space.

Our math bucket now has a proper shelf alongside a few smaller hands-on buckets.  Here we keep our pattern blocks, peg board and pegs and soft math puzzles.  This will probably be our last year with the soft math puzzles.  I think my youngest is done with them but I didn't have the heart to get rid of them yet.  I might find a few more ways to incorporate them at the next level.

In our large math bucket I keep a few living math books, wrap-ups, flashcards, big dice, small dice, math games, base ten blocks, a stopwatch, compass and protractor, and assorted math manipulatives like play money, fraction circles and measurement rings put out by Learning Resources.  Each year I've tried to add new items to this bucket.  I don't have anything new this year but I do have a couple games in the basement that I think I'll move up to this shelf. One in particular, Money Money will be helpful to my youngest daughter.

Although the contents of the bucket are used pretty regularly during lessons, I try to make sure the kids have a once a week time slot to just go digging through that bucket for free exploration.  Last year my 7yo son almost always chose the pattern blocks or the pizza fraction game while my daughter pulled out the cash register.

The remaining hands-on supplies are stored in or on top of our craft cabinet.  These kind of supplies can be messy so I like to keep them in a cabinet with doors!  You would not believe how much stuff you can fit into one of these cabinets from Wal-Mart.  This isn't the little one that you see at the store.  Although I did buy this a the store many years ago, it's harder to find now and can more often be found online.  It measures 72"H x 30"W x 15"D.  On top of the cabinet, which you can't see here in this picture, I keep our microscope and our science bucket filled with beakers, test tubes, magnets, disection kit, small science experiment kits, PH test kits, slides, owl pellets, thermometers and more.
I'm not sure I can list everything that's inside the cabinet nor do I think you want to read an exhaustive list but I can tell you some of the more interesting or important items I like to keep on hand or at least the things you can't see as clearly in the photo.

On the top shelf I usually store recycled items from my kitchen like bottles, small paper bags, styrofoam and tubes from the plastic wrap.  The tube inside the Stretch Tite box is awesome for crafts and much firmer than the paper towel tube or the tin foil tube.  (And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it is by far THE best plastic wrap on the market.)  Before I throw away or give away any decorating item I always consider whether my kids could use it in a project first.  Artificial flowers and greenery come in very handy in dioramas and bringing to life an academic fair project, wall paper samples make nice book covers on home made books and old candles can be melted down and recreated.

Going down the shelves on the right side I keep old tablecloths, smocks and protective materials.  I use those $1 pencil boxes to keep small items like crayons, markers, small kits and OH pencils of course. Klutz kits, drawing pads and craft and artist books are kept on the next shelf while the bottom shelf holds buckets and cookie cans of buttons, tissue paper, spools of thread and feathers.  Doesn't everyone need a bucket of feathers in case of emergencies?

The top two shelves on the left are comprised of paint supplies including sponges, fabric paint, stencils and an assortment of different types of paint of course.  Nothing exciting there but we couldn't do school without it.  Now the second shelf up on the left is an interesting one to me.  It seems like everything on this shelf has an odd name.  Here we have Plox, chenille stems in assorted colors and levels of fuzziness, Floam, and Wikki Stix.  On the bottom left shelf I keep beads, tongue depressors and shredded paper and tinsel type stuff which was very useful in last year's dioramas too.

I love buckets with lids for storage.  You can put all different odds and ends inside them and stack them up.  Whenever I get rid of something from a bucket it almost immediately finds a new use in my home.  If you came for a visit you would surely find more buckets and kits and games either in the school room or down in the basement but I think this has been a good start.  And if you are hands-on challenged, I hope you have collected a few ideas here.  Or perhaps if nothing else, I've just reminded you that you need to hurry and buy some glue and crayons now while the stores are practically giving it away.

Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival Guidelines

I have really enjoyed the entries to the Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival thus far. I have received a plethora of ideas and inspiration for my own homeschooling and I hope you have as well. The reason Kris and I started this carnival was simple. We found many resources in Blogland for the other areas of our homeschooling… book lists, nature studies, worksheets, lapbooking ideas… but very few resources and not a single carnival dedicated to actual hands-on activities.

This carnival is all about homeschoolers. All entries must be made by homeschoolers sharing their experiences with hands-on activities in their own "classrooms." It is an opportunity to step away from the books, flashcards and worksheets and dive into the unusual. We’d like to keep this carnival very specific to hands-on projects and not take away from the other wonderful carnivals that are already available.

Please consider your entry. Are you blogging about something that you have already done with your children? Does your entry reflect an activity that requires kinesthetic learning? If you answered "yes" to these questions then we want your article! I appreciate all the blogs out there that are full of valuable wisdom and advice for homeschoolers, parents and kids, I visit them often, however this is not the carnival for you if your entry comes from an advice-giving viewpoint.
A note on lapbooking. I love lapbooks! And I am so thankful that I can find lots of lapbooking examples online. If you have a lapbook you’d like to share with the Hands On Community, please make sure that it requires your children to do some hands-on work aside from the usual reading, writing, coloring or cutting in the process of making it or using it. Entries that focus on that one hands-on part of the lapbook are especially appreciated!

If you have a blog entry that you would like to submit to the Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival click here to go to our carnival submissions page.

This page may be updated from time to time as needed.
Last updated:  July 31, 2010