The best science and math learning apps

I am a big fan of technology and I love to have it at my fingertips when  educational opportunities present thenselves, at home or while we are out running errands. This list isn’t comprehensive but I tried to cover a variety.

SCIENCE

MATH

This list is by no means comprehensive. It’s just to give you an idea of what’s out there to enhance your learning and to be your pocket “teacher’s assistant.”

Do you have a favorite science or math app?

5 ways to a better homeschool year

The school year is fast approaching (if it isn’t already upon you). While you are excited about the fresh year and new possibilities, some of those old fears and frustrations from last school year can creep up on you before you know it. Here are but a few simple ways that you can make this a better year.

Pray. This is the most important key. Fresh vision and a renewed outlook are critical to change what you want to change and make this a better year.

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:24 NKJV

Schedule. After you have prayed you can move to scheduling. Make a plan to avoid disaster and to plan for fun and spontaneity. It’s not easy but you’ll be glad you did.A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Prov. 3:5,6 NKJV

Connect. Find a kindred soul to walk through your year with. If you don’t already have one, seek out a friend to pray with and to share the good, the bad and the ugly with.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 1 Thes. 5:14 NKJV

Let go. Release unrealistic expectations. Release your death grip on life. Release those fears and frustrations from last year and wipe the slate clean. Release things into God’s hands and marvel at how He beautifully orchestrates your family’s lives.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. Jer. 17:7 NKJV

Encourage. Encourage yourself in the Lord. And find another mom to encourage. Make it a long term project to bless another mom you know. It’s hard to obsess about your own problems when you are meeting someone else’s needs.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Col. 3:16 NKJV

Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 3

Here are parts one and two if you need to catch up.

This post has some of my space saving ideas and such. If you are anything like me you like to peek into other peoples’ homeschool spaces.

This is my china hutch. I got it for a steal at the Salvation Army. It had some lovely china in it but I need the space for homeschool supplies. So I put the china away and lined the inside of the glass doors with some lovely gift wrap from Wal-Mart and voila, a great space for goodies.

You can see I keep a lot in here: my portable teacher’s desk, paper of all kinds, tempera paint and art supplies, page protectors and more. It’s not a big cabinet but it holds a lot out of sight.

This wall is our chalkboard wall. The whole wall was painted with homemade chalkboard paint that matches the decor.  I put our timeline along the top under the border and now we have a huge space for doing anything we need a chalkboard for. And when we need a map I just tape it up here. (We also make the wall magnetic wit paint but it’s not very strong and doesn’t usually hold up something that heavy.)

This cute little bird holds our chalk in a low spot so even my 4yo can reach it. (Both came from Target. Under $5 for both.)

These bookcases are in the living room. I want to paint them white but I am recovering from surgery so that project will have to wait. I organize books but subject: science, reference, etc and then history and literature I put in chronological order. I love this method because you can see the progression of both and it’s easy to find any book you need.

This little shoe shelf (closet organizer) from KMart is right by the front door. It holds all of our library books. I used to have a basket for this but the basket got torn up. This is working mush better for us and they are always right there when we need to take them back.

This butcher block on wheels (from Wal-Mart) is also in my dining area. It holds food in the baskets underneath but the top is an extra surface for projects. Both sides fold up to make a large surface for crafts, science experiments and more.

All of these things I had on hand. I am simply re-purposing what I already have to accommodate a homeschool space in our 1200 sq. ft. home filled with 6 people and lots of other stuff. I hope you are inspired to see how you can be a good steward of your finances and find a way to make do with what you have. Do you have a post on organizing homeschool? Leave a link in the comments!

Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 2

If you missed part one, you can catch up here.

Okay here’s where I get a little more detailed on my BPA way of things. It’ll work for other approaches too but this is my take, at least for this year. :) This post addresses filing and BPA stuff in general. You can see how this system folds all of life in together.

weekly foldersOkay this is the front of the weekly folder. It has the family weekly planner stapled to the front. This has my menu plan, activities and to do list. So handy!

insode file folderInside the folder you can see how it holds all our life: brochures, postcard reminders, recipes to try, school handouts, it’s all in this little folder. You can see life in context each week. This is more visual for me even than a planner list. I can see what all is going on this week and only this week–each little weekly capsule. Then of course all these activities go onto my monthly planner calendar I carry with me so I can see a month at a time.

In my files I keep a folder for Masters. When I have to make a copy from the NP lessons for a graphic organizer or some such thing I will probably use again I make a few extra copies and keep them here. Then I have extras for when I forget or when I might be low on printer ink. :)

Up front in the top drawer of my filing cabinet (I have four glorious drawers!) I have 7 folders, one for each principle. Into these I put clippings, printouts and more that help me illustrate these principles in every day life (especially to my middle and high schooler). it helps spark conversations and  bring these principles into the everyday. This is one of my favorite things!

Now that school is starting I have taken my homekeeping notebook out of my tote. It now holds a season of folders, my Noah Plan lessons for third grade (the spiral) and my school planner (the black binder). I use these beautiful planners from Home Educating Family Association and I have removed the spiral and put the pages in the notebook so I can add things as I need to in some file pockets and such.

I hope this is helpful to you! In the next installment I’ll show you my organizational tips. I love in a small home but we don’t do without in our homeschool just because we are short on space.

Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 1

Staying organized as a home educator isn’t easy. There are papers, plans and projects all over the house, and unlike a traditional classroom we can’t shut the door and go home. Options are everywhere online these days. A simple Google search can yield more ideas than you can shake an organizer at. This is my current system and I thought I ‘d share it in case it should fit your family in some way. Thanks to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for all her posts on her File Crate System. I’ve tweaked it a bit for my needs but here goes.

Here is a peek inside my filing cabinet, which is in my dining area.

Each week has its own file folder.. The folders are grouped according to season as Dawn suggested.

You can see the circled numbers on the tabs. Those are the weeks for school. Each week is labeled according to what week of the school year it is. Inside each folder are the things I need for that week: printables, brochures, maps, etc all fit right into the folder. Because I use a curriculum this year that is all laid out for me I could make a list of all the materials I needed for each week and get organized before the start of the year. This makes things so much easier for me!

As the year goes on and I come across things for different topics I can just slip them into the file folders. The little sticky note is to list things that don’t fit: materials needed, web sites, etc. This folder also holds things I need/use everyday. [More on these details in the next post.]

I then have a portable file crate that I got at Target. This holds stuff I need at my fingertips.

In here I have a season of school file folders, my homekeeping notebook and my school planner. I also have a file for things that don’t fit anything in particular.

There are things like crafts and recipes to try, web site addresses and things we would like to get around to one day. This gets too full and I have to toss things sometimes and file other things.

As you will see in part 2, this helps organize my whole life and it shows how homeschool is integrated into all of living. In part 3 I’ll post some of my tips and tricks for getting organized. How do you organize your homeschool materials?

Homeschool Plans for 2012-2013

I am really really really looking forward to this new year! So much change and so much to make me smile. I have been on sabbatical from home educating my children but God has brought things together for me to be able to joyfully teach my children again. I have missed it so much!

My two older daughter are starting junior high and high school this year at our church’s Christian school. The boys (8 and 4) will homeschool with me. So here are my basic plans for this new school year (third grade and preschool):

My 4 year old wants to be just like his big brother so I have “school” things for him to do as well. Soon I’ll see if he’s ready to learn to read. I have had the privilege of giving each of my other children the Golden Ticket and I can’t wait to work with my last one.

 

This is just the skeleton. I am starting to put these bones together and then I’ll flesh them out with weekly plans and dress this guy up in some field trips and special projects.

I’m trying a new-to-me organizing system that I’ll share with you soon. I really like it so far! I’ll show you how I adapt it to fit my needs.

How to live like a homeschooler–even if you’re not one

Being a parent of a non-homeschooled child, you are probably busy and think you don’t have time (or energy) to do more where your child’s education is concerned. But your child can benefit from some of small ways home educators (especially BPA educators) approach education. Delegating your child’s education to a school does not absolve you of your responsibility to be your child’s most important teacher. Here are a few easy ways you can take more leadership of your child’s education.

Be involved in their education. Check homework, ask questions about lectures. Offer more than the school is offering. Go beyond, even if it’s only small things like checking out an extra book from the library on the topic.

Make your whole lives about learning. No one only learns in certain locations or during certain hours. Make your home a haven of learning. Set up a science center and/or a reading corner related to what they are learning. Cooking, laundry and chores are also times to learn math, science and life skills. Thinking about these simple tasks in a new way can open up a new avenue to connect with your child educationally. Bringing Biblical principles into the subject (like science)  brings life to learning that will inspire for life in a gentle way.

Read aloud–and read a lot. Mealtimes and car rides are great times to squeeze in extra literary goodness. Offer your child a reading list, especially in the summer. Add to the list your child’s teacher gives and if your child has a choice of books to read, offer a literary classic, a “living book.” (see some of my previous posts on literature.)

Learn alongside your children. Ask them questions and allow them to teach you something. Dig in and learn beyond the homework, which is probably fill in the blank or one word answers. Take a topic and together see what you can learn that s not fact-oriented.

Look for ways to incorporate their learning styles. Homework is a good time to let your child embrace their learning style. Making up songs to study for a test, walking and learning, drawing and doodling can all be done during homework time and help your child get more out of their homework.

Embrace individuality. As long as they are following the teacher’s instructions, why not let your child use colored paper, write with a colored pen, use a cool computer font or anything else that will help your child take ownership of their own learning. Help them make projects their own, not just something they were told to complete. Encourage creative expression every chance you can.

Take field trips. Weekends are for enjoying. Make them fun AND educational. Zoos, museums, aquariums, fire houses all make fun family outings that create memories and offer learning at the same time.

What suggestions do you have?

Benefits of home education [for mom]

We often hear about how homeschooling is best for the student. Home education is also great for the mother-teacher as well. Here are just a few of the ways:

time with your children
In my opinion this can’t be oversold. Time with your children should be something you desire to find more of. This seems to be the reason many parents choose not to homeschool–they will have to be with their children all day. I have never understood that sentiment. If that’s the only reason you don’t try homeschooling then let me encourage you to rethink this idea.

you are always learning
Home educating parents are always in school themselves. Learning and exploring alongside your children is one of the greatest homeschool joys, I believe. You don’t have to know it all right now. Taking time to learn together is a wonderful way to bond as a family.

forging relationships
Meeting and praying with other parent-educators forms a strong bond. Finding like-minded parents and children is an important factor in the success of home educating families. It is really difficult to “go it alone,” and with the internet it’s now easier than ever to connect and create life-long friends.

building confidence
Home educating parents are constantly setting goals (and hopefully seeing them through). Looking back over a year, or a semester, is rewarding. You can see how far the homeschool students have come and where you need to go next. Accomplishments such as teaching a child to read are methodical milestones a parent can look back on with pride. This builds confidence that bleeds over into every area of life.

ensuring your desires for your children’s education are met
There is no competing worldview or opposing force vying for your child’s heart and mind. Also you are able to focus like a laser on what you think is important for them to learn. You can also be sure you deal with challenges and giftings as needed.

If you could write this list, what would you add?

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions…

Two days until we start our new school year! I am peacefully happy about how this is working out for us. In our homeschool we follow the calendar of the private school my daughters attend. They start on Thursday, so guess what. So do we.

My 7yo son has bugged me since Christmas break to homeschool him again. Once we decided to do just that he has never looked back. He hasn’t wavered or questioned his choice once, even when we registered the girls for school and went shopping for school supplies. I am so impressed with his quiet confidence in his choice.

Unlike him, I spend too much time rehashing and questioning and second guessing most every important choice I make. I don’t just let the decision hang out there, small and vulnerable. After I toss it out I quickly reel it back in, clutching it,  frantically searching for any perceived flaw. Upon closer inspection I deem it unworthy and toss it onto the heap with the rest of the changed decisions. Then I make another decision and start the process over again.

Those little decisions never reach maturity. They never see the light of day. I hang onto the familiar, even when it’s not in my (or my family’s) best interest. I pray Jack’s unknowing example will help me be braver as the months go on and that some of my wee decisions will have the chance to turn into great things.

Let your “Yes,” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No…” James 5:12 NKJV

Plans for this school year 2011-2012

So we are counting down the days until we get back into the school swing. My two oldest attend our church’s private school and I am teaching the younger two at home. I have a preschooler and a 2nd grader. Here’s what the big picture looks like for this school year.

Almost everything here is planned for me. Because I work full time and attend school myself, I can’t get into a lot of lesson planning from scratch. This is a very workable plan for us. It keeps us in the BPA but not overwhelmed with creating my own plans.In the near future I will go into a bit more detail about what we are going to do.

My sons and I can hardly wait for the new school year! I know God has good things in store for us.