Saturday, March 28, 2015

Teach Them Diligently Conference

P1050251

Last weekend, Emily and I went to our first Teach Them Diligently conference. I’ve been to homeschool conventions before and always enjoy hearing about new homeschooling products and techniques and browsing the vendor displays. I seldom buy a lot—I’m one who likes to think about and research a product thoroughly before I buy, but I always come home with a few goodies.

One of the things that attracted me to this particular conference was the fact that there were children’s and teen programs. I’ve never taken children to a homeschool convention because they would have been quickly bored, both by the speakers and by the shopping. However, knowing that Emily would have something fun to do this time, I brought her along.2015-03-19 17.42.16

The conference was held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which was absolutely amazing. Because we stayed onsite, we were able to come and go from our room all day long and bring meals and snacks to keep in the room. The hotel was beautiful and I spent a lot of time simply walking around enjoying the greenery.

2015-03-20 12.35.002015-03-20 12.35.19

The view from our room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily had a good time at the 4-12 Youth Program. I think it was more sitting and listening than we had anticipated, but she made lots of friends and begged to stay until the end instead of leaving earlier in the afternoon as I had planned.

The speakers were good—more inspirational and relationship-oriented talks than nuts and bolts teaching talks, though. Since there were 199 sessions and I was able to catch about 10, I ordered the recordings for the rest. That will keep me busy for quite a long time.

Emily is already asking to return next year, so we may do just that!

2015-03-21 12.37.50

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Science and Social Studies Fair

Our home school cover school just had our annual science and social studies fair. The afternoon began with a very interesting presentation by therapy dog handlers. The kids learned about how therapy dogs work in schools, hospitals, and senior centers and were able to see and interact with several dogs, practicing the correct way to meet and greet a strange dog.

2015-03-11 13.26.022015-03-11 13.30.49

After the presentation, the students that had brought projects each had a few minutes to tell about their displays. My biology lab group presented a project about their fruit fly experiments and explained their food web posters. Emily did a history project on Adolf Hitler.

2015-03-11 13.52.262015-03-11 13.45.16

P1050215P1050228P1050217

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lord Heritage Homeschool Record Keeping Program (Schoolhouse Review)

Lord Heritage Inc.

 HomeSchool Office, a product of Lord Heritage, is a complete, online homeschool planning program that will help the user plan and keep track of schedules, resources, lesson plans, and grades all in one integrated program. The annual charge for HomeSchool Office is $79. This program is divided into six components, as described below. I will describe each component, then tell about my experience using each.

Team

This is where you input the basic information about your homeschool such as address, school district, teacher name, and students.

This section just took a few minutes to set up.

Plan

This is the place to input the individual subjects for each student. Goals and objectives and grading scales may be included if desired. A school calendar, already set up, but easily customizable, is here for attendance-keeping.

I found the “help” section necessary for navigating through this section. I didn’t find it intuitive, but fortunately, there are a few articles in the Support section that walk the user through each task.

Courses must be chosen from a drop-down list and there is no option to customize. Although there is a large selection of courses, one of Emily’s courses from this year, sculpture, was not an option. I was forced to call it Art: Fine Arts or Art: Other. Her Personal Finance class was under Mathematics, which is not terribly accurate for the particular course she is taking, although some math is involved, of course. I would have appreciated the ability to add customized course names here. I already had course descriptions written for Emily’s courses, so I easily cut and pasted them into each course.

image

image

Setting up a weekly master schedule is necessary in order to lesson plan. I had to assign each subject to a time slot each day. This was rather tedious. There was no copy function to assign a subject over several days, so each had to be typed in separately. Each subject must be a course and must be listed only once a day to avoid double assignments. I tried inputting English in two slots, since Emily does her grammar assignment first in the morning, and does literature and writing later in the day. That resulted in two assignments of literature a day. Even if you don’t work on a time schedule, courses must be assigned an arbitrary time in order for lesson planning to work.

image

Individual assignments (lesson plans) are also inputted in this section. Within each subject, the user must input each daily lesson. Then the lessons will be automatically assigned in sequence, one per day. This was also a lengthy process.

 

Order

This section seems to be the place to view or to print schedules on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. Daily assignments are not visible in any view without clicking on the individual subject.

image

Work

Within the work section, any individual assignment may be marked or unmarked as completed, or pushed forward to another date.

Evaluate

Grades are entered here. A variety of assignments can be graded and assigned a weight, enabling the user to create a final grade based on 60% tests, 20% labs, and 20% daily work, for example.

The grade weighting option is a great feature, enabling me to weight tests, daily work, and projects as different percentages of the final grade.

Attendance is automatically marked as present/full day based on the school calendar, but any day can be modified to mark the student as present/ half day or absent. I find it easier to mark absent days than full days, so I like the way this was set up.

Report

I was most impressed by the report building task. It took merely seconds to check the boxes for which quarters and which topics I would like to include on my report. One more click and the report was generated. I could do anything from printing attendance records for a quarter to goals and objectives for the year to a full-year report including student personal data, goals and objectives, grades, and attendance. The finished reports looked quite professional. This is the area where all the hours spent tracking data is worth it!

image

image

Unfortunately, I was not able to make the Lord Heritage Record Keeping Program work for me. There are some nice features (automatic tracking of attendance, nice-looking reports, and the ability to weight grades), but the process of inputting lessons was too long and the choices were not customizable enough for me.  The lack of an actual daily list of lesson plans made it difficult to use. For now, I’ll be sticking with my paper planner and Microsoft Word created reports.

This is a new program, so hopefully changes will be made in the coming months to make it more user-friendly.

HomeSchool Office Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fish and Frog Dissection (Apologia Biology)

We finished up our dissections for Module 13 last week. We missed a day due to snow and ice, so we squeezed 2 dissections into one busy afternoon.

First the students did a perch. Then, they did frogs. The text gave detailed instructions for the fish, but not for the frog, so I had them watch a virtual dissection video online. We found that very helpful, and by the time they got started, they were confident in where and how to cut and had an easier time identifying the various body parts. If I were to do this again, I’d look for virtual dissections for everything before we tackled the preserved specimen.

P1050234P1050236

One of our frogs was packed full of eggs! Very interesting.

P1050237

Emily anticipating spattering guts!

P1050235

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Wild West Trip 2003

In 2003, we took a cross-country trip from Alabama to Montana, spending three weeks visiting historical sites and natural wonders. Emily was only three, but she even remembers some of the things we saw! This was so much fun. I’m really wanting to do the trip again!

Here are a few of the highlights:

Dinosaur National Monument

dinommt

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

DSCN1170

DSCN1161

Promontory Point, Utah

DSCN1217

Buffalo at Yellowstone

DSCN1257

Yellowstone National Park

yellowstonerainbowyellowstone geyserlandscape

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

DSCN1178

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Dancing and Drumming055

Waterton and Glacier National Parks

Waterton060Wild Goose Island0079

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Freedom Project (Schoolhouse Review)

Freedom Project Education Review

Over the past eight weeks, Emily has been taking an online class entitled, “Mother, Should I Trust the Government?,” sponsored by FreedomProject Education.

FreedomProject Education offers online classes for students from Kindergarten through high school from traditional core classes to classically-oriented courses such as logic, economics, and Latin. The course Emily has been taking is not one of their regular classes, however. It is a family/teen/adult class intended for enrichment rather than a full credit course. It met for 2 hours a week on Monday nights and is based on the book, Mother, Should I Trust the Government, by Jake Jacobs, who is also the teacher. It is a lecture and discussion-based course with weekly reading assignments from the book. No other assignments, tests, or grades were given. FreedomProject Education periodically offers these free (donations accepted) 8 week family courses. Starting soon are courses on Critical Thinking and Bible as Culture.

Our Experience:

Joining the class was simple. Each week, we received an email with a link to follow to the classroom. We could see the teacher, a chat box, and a Power Point slide on the screen. Dr. Jacobs spent some time chatting with the students and getting to know them, so it was a friendly, rather casual atmosphere. (Emily preferred to just watch and listen rather than participate in the chat, though, so she was pretty much invisible.)

P1050220

The book, Mother, Should I Trust the Government? is a  book that explores the appropriate role of a republican government and the Constitution-defying overreaches of our current bloated U.S. government. Beginning with the Constitutional Convention, Jacobs takes the reader on a sweep through U.S. history to current day events, exploring the intents and conflicts of our founding fathers as they designed a form of government that would be strong enough to hold together, but not powerful enough to infringe on the rights of the individuals or the states. He discusses the federalists and anti-federalists, the causes of the Civil War as it relates to government power and states’ rights, and the explosion of government power through the 20th century. We both enjoyed the book and felt that it was a good counterbalance to the liberal viewpoint that we are bombarded with by the media and most secular texts. I have to admit that reading the book made me feel rather hopeless about the direction our country is taking and the chances of a turn-around happening, but he did include narratives about several individuals that are making a difference in politics despite overwhelming odds.

Although the class covered approximately one chapter a class, the discussion of the first few weeks seemed repetitive and a bit rambling.  The repetition was not entirely a bad thing, though. At first, I felt that Emily was in over her head a bit because she hasn’t studied government yet and it has been several years since we’ve covered U.S. history. But because important points were discussed several times, I feel that Emily now has a good grasp of the philosophical differences between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. She understands the viewpoints of the founding fathers and knows the difference between federalism and anti-federalism. She understands that many of the same differences of opinion about the role of federal government are the same today as they were 200 years ago.

As the course progressed, Dr. Jacobs covered a good deal of U.S. history, especially in how it related to the role of government in individual lives as well as the differing opinions about how much power should be allotted to the federal government as opposed to the state governments. As a southerner, I found Dr. Jacobs assessment of states’ rights during the Civil War very enlightening. I have often heard (and was skeptical of the claim) that secession of southern states was about “state’s rights,” not slavery. Through the use of original source documents, such as the South Carolina and Texas statements of secession  and letters from the vice-president of the Confederacy, it was clear that the primary state right that the Confederates were concerned with was the states’ rights to own other human beings.  That is why it is so important to include original source documents in any study of history or government!

Two hours was quite a long time for a class and I felt that the material could have been presented as easily in a 1 1/2 hour time period. I would have loved to see more outlined points on the Power Point in order to help Emily in her note taking and to follow the topic more easily. I had her take notes, but she’s not very experienced in doing so, and had some difficulty in picking out the important points rather than smaller details. Other than that, I think what Emily has learned will help her have better perspective as she studies American history next year and government in another year or two.( I will have her re-read Mother, Should I Trust the Government? when she studies U.S government.) We’ve also had some great discussions about both history and current events that were sparked by this class. Overall, we enjoyed the format of this class and will consider taking more FreedomProject Education family classes.

Freedom Project Education Review

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

 
 
 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Visual Learning (Schoolhouse Review)

 
Over the past month, Emily has been using Visual Learning Systems’ online video course, Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) as a supplement to her biology text.  Digital Science Online includes a wide variety of online videos in all science content areas. Both Elementary (Grades K-5) and secondary versions are available, but we only used the secondary edition. The homeschool subscription costs $99 for up to 8 students.Visual Learning Systems Review
 
The heart of the Digital Science Online program is the video collection. The middle/high school topics include:
  • Physical
  • Earth
  • Life
  • Integrated
  • Health
  • Biology
    image

Within each topic are 8 to 30 video lessons that are each approximately 20 minutes long. Emily found the videos to be interesting and easy to follow. The narration was accompanied by beautiful video footage of nature, animals, and illustrations of concepts.image

While a student could learn a lot simply by watching videos, complete teacher material is available to accompany each lesson. Many lessons include animations as well as videos.  Each lesson begins with a pre-video activity. For example, in the Gymnosperms and Angiosperms lesson, the teacher shows the students a flower and a pine cone and initiates a discussion about what type of plant each comes from and the reproductive differences in those types of plants.

Next, a Preliminary Assessment is given so that the student sees what he already knows and gets an idea about what will be covered in the video lesson. A video review page is filled out while watching the video. Multiple worksheets can be printed for each topic. These vary from lesson to lesson, but include vocabulary, hands-on activities, reading comprehension/critical thinking passages with questions, followed by a Post Assessment. Learning objectives and a complete video script are also included in the teacher materials.

P1050226

We found that completing one video lesson a week was a comfortable pace. Emily could have easily done two lessons if she hadn’t been simultaneously keeping up with her regular textbook as well. She did the preliminary assessment and video on the first day, then spent a couple more days working through the worksheets and post assessment. Sometimes I didn’t assign her to do all of the worksheets, but just picked one or two that focused on what I thought were the most important topics.

In the Reptiles and Amphibians topic, Emily classified various amphibians and reptiles by order and did some research to learn about habitat, reproduction, number of species, and general characteristics. She did a compare/contrast activity for reptiles and amphibians and designed her own fictitious reptile. Each of the topics we used included an unscrambling/matching vocabulary task, which Emily hated. I eventually just printed off a list of the vocabulary for her to match, eliminating the unscrambling words part of the activity. Her favorite parts of the program were the video and and the video review page that she completed as she watched. She says the other pages were “just work.”  (They weren’t busywork—I felt that they were worthwhile, but she didn’t find them especially fun!)

P1050218

I thought that the lessons Emily did were a bit on the easy side for high school level, but they were still a worthwhile supplement to her regular biology lessons. The range of biology topics wasn’t as complete as I would have liked. While there are many videos about plants and the human body, there were none about invertebrates, and few about cells or single celled organisms. I do think that Digital Science Online could be considered as a complete science curriculum for younger students, but it is best used as a supplement for high school aged students. (Visual Learning doesn’t claim that it is a complete curriculum). We have enjoyed using Digital Science Online and will continue to use it as a science supplement.

Visual Learning Systems Review

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Adoption

This is one of the early pictures we had of Emily, a couple of months before we met her! I can’t believe it’s been over 14 years!

Top.BMP

Picking up Emily at Casa Quivira in Antigua, Guatemala.

P1020347

At the hotel…

Top-1.BMP

P1020346