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?

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.

Sheltering and books

LIT’ERATURE, n. [L. literatura.] Learning; acquaintance with letters or books. Literature comprehends a knowledge of the ancient languages, denominated classical, history, grammar, rhetoric, logic, geography, &c. as well as of the sciences. A knowledge of the world and good breeding give luster to literature.

There seem to be two camps concerning literature:  those who think you should shelter your children and those who think that difficult books are a tool for discussion. Of course older children can handle things that younger children cannot. And difficult discussions on slavery, racial slurs, abuse, etc. do need to happen. I think for me it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

I have heard both sides of the argument and they both have merit.  I think I come down on the side of caution. My children count on me to keep them safe. The mind is the most. I do not ever want to allow them to put something there that they are not ready for. I believe literature (true literature) is a terrific way to introduce difficult topics in their natural settings. Books can open casual doors for conversations that might seem contrived otherwise. Then Biblical Principles can be introduced/applied where they fit.

And then there are some books that I do not believe qualify as literature, are salacious or are otherwise twaddle. Those don’t make the cut. But important works are worth reading and discussing together. Because we are “living” with the books and their characters, I want to make sure we are “acquainting” ourselves for a specific reason and not just to have something to read or because it was recommended by someone else.

Where do you fall in the book sheltering debate?

Of lanterns and lighthouses

I love to plan. Seriously, I LOVE it. Home educating quenches that desire in me because I have to plan on a regular basis. Score.

Even though I really enjoy it, sometimes I think I can get by without planning. For some moms, loose plans or [gasp!] no plans aren’t a big deal. I am not one of those moms.

Lesson plans are the way the big picture gets done. They are a map to get you to your destination. Mrs. Smith says that goals are the lighthouse and lesson plans are the lantern. I love that! They are what enables you to move along the path without getting distracted and without losing sight of the big picture.  They keep you moving along toward your destination.

This summer I am trying to be more diligent about evaluating (more details to come) and planning for the year. I sleep better at night knowing not just where we are headed, but how we are going to get there.

I look to my lighthouse and get my bearings. Then I take my children by the hand. The lantern helps us avoid the rocks and other obstacles on our particular home educating path. I can’t see very far ahead but I don’t need to. I trust the Keeper of the Lighthouse has it all under control.

Portable teacher’s desk

These little craft caddies are so handy. Since we usually have school at the table and the desk is in the other room, I put together all the little things that I need through the day. Some things in this cute caddy:

  • glue sticks
  • stapler
  • 3 hole punch
  • reward stickers
  • E-Z grader & red pen
  • Dry Wipe markers, eraser & cleaner
  • Sticky notes
  • brads & paper clips
  • tape
  • hole reinforcements
  • scissors
  • small Bible

I also created a paper caddy with an accordion folder. In there I have all kinds of papers and handouts. It’s grab-and-go easy. These two little tools make homeschooling a little easier for us.

5 myths of Biblical Principle Approach home education

  1. It is too labor-intensive. Yes, it does require much from the teacher. Everything in life that is worth anything has come about through struggle and toil and patience and diligence. You must internalize the principles in order to teach them. And that takes time. Too much time, it seems sometimes. But in the end the price is small compared to the rewards of seeing your children maturing in the Lord, reasoning effectively form God’s Word and exhibiting Christian character.
  2. It is too expensive. Actually the Biblical Principle Approach is economical. Real literature and other resources can be reused and enjoyed. Compared to consumable programs, BPA is affordable.
  3. It is only focused on American history. It is not. We study the whole chain of Christianity, that is, the whole timeline. Nothing in His Story happens in a vacuum. Since we study from cause to effect, we study all of history all around the world.
  4. It is classical education. BPA is not classical education after the Greek model. It is considered Biblical classical, after the Hebrew model.
  5. I can pick it up and use it right away. While the Noah Plan from the Foundation for American Christian Education has lesson plans for grades K-3, but is difficult and burnout-inducing to jump in before you have renewed your mind and formed your philosophy of education and at least gotten the basics of a BPA education under your belt. It’s not a race or a canned curriculum. It is something that takes time and effort to implement.

Life is tasty in small bites

Being an all or nothing kind of person, I tend to “go big or go home.” I struggle with the idea of just a little of anything, which is why I avoid certain situations where my tendencies could get me into a lot of trouble. But as I get older I am starting to see the value of incremental living.

Because I still have very small children my life is chopped into a hundred little pieces. There is no lovely flow from one activity to the next. It’s hacked and sawed and sometimes jagged because I am always in one thing when I have to leave to take care of something else. At the end of the day sometimes I see behind me a handful of unfinished projects and the carcasses of the best laid plans in my wake. Sigh. Well, there’s always tomorrow, right?

Domestic Mouse Eating Biscuit
I have always wanted–and tried to carve out in my day–big chucks of time to work on school. I have to study and prepare my heart and my lessons. I enjoy it and for me it is a necessary activity for our school day to flow smoothly. I have learned something this week: this magical block of time doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage I keep trying to get to but now I realize it’s just not there.

At this time in my life there is no time in my day for hours of uninterrupted study. But I can eat away at the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. So I have resigned myself to small doses. A little study throughout the day, throughout the week, instead of long times at a stretch. A bite at a time the study will get done, the dinner cooked, the children snuggled and the home cleaned.

I am finding that it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be to slip in and out of study mode. And I keep a notebook with me at all times to catch ideas, scriptures or resources that come my way as I move through the day. Like praying without ceasing, I think this studying in small bites all day will leave me more satisfied than gorging anyway. Biblical Principle Approach is about reflective learning and little bites allow me to savor each morsel before I go on to the next. I think I’m going to embrace this idea of living in small bites instead of allowing frustration to take over my thoughts. Then I can truly embrace this time of life and all the small bites it offers.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.         Isaiah 28:10

Raising good cooks: part three

There are few things more frustrating to me than trying to cook something without the right tools. Just like in carpentry, you need the right tool of the right job. I don’t mean a lot of fussy gadgets to clutter your kitchen, but the basic tools necessary to create almost anything you want to make in the kitchen.

There is a skill to setting up a good kitchen. With ten basic categories you can have a well-prepared kitchen that will be ready for any dish you want to prepare.

cookware. Quality cookware is a must. And knowing when to use what pan is a skill in itself. A basic set with a saute pan, a skillet, a stock pot and a couple of sauce pans will get you going.

cookbooks. Two basic, complete books are really all you need.

Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. Having the right tool makes cooking so much easier.

utensils. Whisks, slotted spoons, colanders, spatulas, a non-porous cutting board and ladles make cooking so much easier.

bakeware. It is hard to bake without a few basic pans and baking dishes. Two round cake pans, a sheet cake pan and an 8X8 square pans are three to start with. An maybe a glass dish for casseroles.

measuring tools. It’s impossible to cook accurately without quality measuring sups and spoons.

storage containers. You need somewhere to keep your leftovers so you aren’t storing food in your serving dishes or cookware.

mixing bowls. It’s hard to mix a cake in a cereal bowl. Three sizes are adequate.

electric tools. A mixer and blender are almost indispensable. Others you may want to invest in include a microwave, a food processor, a crock pot and a toaster oven.

rags, oven mitts and towels. You can’t get hot food out of the oven without one. And you need rags for cleaning too.

Next stop: stocking the pantry.

Practical application of timelines

This is a guest post by JoAnne Bennett, a dear friend and mentor. She was kind enough to provide the following post and I’m so glad she did.

We will use the time line for the facts which must be memorized for that unit.  As we do an overview to introduce the unit, I emphasize that these are the most important events.  We will add other significant events as they are discovered and discuss their relation to the major events.

We usually draw separate time lines for political events and for spiritual developments during that period of history.  For literature, we will do one for the author’s life time and another for the setting of the story or the main character’s life.

photo courtesy Jon aslund

photo courtesy Jon aslund

The applications for time lines are numerous.  Perhaps the most indispensable is to show relationships between events.  One method is to use parallel time lines on the same page to  show cause and effect.  You can then draw  arrows from one line to the other to dramatize the relationship.  For example, make a line for a Washington’s life and one for the historical events of that time.  Note how the events around the man affected his attitudes and

accomplishments.  If he responded positively, the events could cause him to rise to greatness.  Point out that in every crisis God raises up a man to meet the needs of His people.

Another way to use parallel time lines is to color code specific periods or events.  When we studied the Middle Ages, we designated historic events on the basic time line.  Then we entered the periods of art and architecture as colored parallel lines: Byzantine was blue, Romanesque was red, and Gothic was yellow.  It was easy to see the political turmoil of the fifth and sixth centuries in Europe had a relationship to the simplicity of art and the elaborate adornment of the Gothic developed as prosperity came to the nobility through the feudal system.

Time lines give order and perspective to the events we study.  When we look at the “coon skin cap” and the “whale” stuck to our time line, it would be simple for even small children to reason that the time span is too wide for Jonah together.  Notice also how the important events get closer and closer together until, by the end, labels and pictures will overlap.  God is certainly moving faster as we near the end of  “the days of man.”

Another use of time lines is for periodic review.  No matter what time period we are studying, I will occasionally call for a “pop test” of  U.S. history.  This is based on a time line we did which includes crucial developments such as Columbus in 1492, Pilgrims in 1620, Revolution in 1776, Civil War in 1860′s, World War I & II, etc.  When we hear some news story which compares an event to the Great Depression, I want my children to be able to tie that to something concrete in their minds. Having them draw a time line to recall those facts has been the most efficient use of our time.  It is much faster than writing an essay question or having mother devise a fill-in-the-blanks test — and it is quicker to grade.

GO FORTH AND DRAW TIME LINES
Take the ideas I have presented and personalize them.  Improvise!  Improve!  See how many varieties you can use!  I believe you will agree it is one of the handiest tools in your “teacher’s bag.”

JoAnne Bennett is a seasoned Biblical Principle Approach mom. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, with one more due to arrive in June 2009. Since raising her own children, she teaches and mentors other home educators. Her internalization of Biblical Principles and application of a BPA philosophy makes her an important resource for home educating moms. You can find out more about her at her Web site, Academic Advantages.

My newest school planning helpers

I just love going to my local used home school store. The woman that runs it is a walking home school catalog. Her knowledge of all the different curricula is staggering. And there is where I happen upon most of my home school loves.

My newest favorite resources are these giant, yet unassuming books. They may not sound like a big deal, but they are–at least they should be.

I am in love with all the Teacher’s Book of Lists books (available at Amazon and other online bookstores). They are worth their weight in gold. Yes you can probably find all the information on the Internet, if you took months, and even then you may not find it all. Why put yourself through that? It’s organized and at your fingertips right in this book. For example, some things included in the comprehensive science book are:

  • plant terminology and classification
  • dyeing procedures (from plant sources)
  • animal classification, reproductive and life cycles
  • major terms of the 10 human body systems
  • determining to mole of a compound
  • balancing chemical equations
  • isotopes of chemical equations
  • classification of energy
  • calculating the specific gravity of a mineral
  • codes for weather symbols
  • classification of stars by color and temperature
  • base two
  • checklists for graphing conventions
  • metric conversions
  • professional publications
  • science fair project information and checklists

And that’s just a few of other over 290 lists. In the literature book you can find 247 lists like vocabulary lists for all sorts of writing; lists by theme, genre and author; lists of award winners and books that have been made into movies. You can search by literary period, find a nice list comparing gods and goddesses and even lists of famous characters.

I think you get the point. You will be so glad you have these books on your lesson plan bookshelf. It is saving me so much time looking up things that I need to grab and move on. These book keep me from getting lost in the details, so I can focus on the principles I want to teach. These lists are great for illustrating principles, gleaning ideas for reading lists and essay questions and for just plain fact-gathering and they cover k-12, so there are no other books to buy (always a winner to me!).

If you prefer integrated studies, these are still valuable. You can use them as project starters, essay fodder and just general resource. Because they are broken down by subject you are able to hone in on just the info you need. You can also see who the subjects intertwine. And you can use them to make mini offices for your kids on any subject. If you aren’t convinced by now, you are a hopeless case. Or you  have another easy source for all this information available at the tum of a page. If you’d like to share a favorite resource, please leave a comment. I’m always curious to know what other moms are using in the homeschooling.