Monday, February 8, 2016

More Chemistry Fun

We’re continuing to enjoy The Spectrum Chemistry this year. With a full experiment every week, the students are getting a lot of hands-on learning!

In this experiment, the students created and observed chemical reactions that caused dramatic color changes:

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In this experiment, the girls were excited to create actual batteries that could light up an LED by layering copper sulfate pentahydrate and zinc sulfate heptahydrate in vials and making the proper connections with zinc and copper electrodes.

It took them several tries to get it right (they struggled with the layers mixing too much, then made a connection error with their wiring), so they were thrilled when it did finally work.

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This experiment very clearly showed single displacement reactions in practice.  Wires of Al, Fe, and Zn were submerged in solutions of CuCl2. In each case, the copper in the copper chloride was replaced by the metals from the wires, causing the copper to accumulate on the wires. Heat and gas bubbles were also produced in the reactions.

One of the students commented that she liked being able to see the reactions that they had been balancing on paper.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Re-Captcha and Duolingo

I watched a fascinating TED talk this morning by the creator of Captcha and Duolingo, Luis von Ahn. I know that CAPTCHA is often necessary to prevent spamming and fraud, but it can be quite irritating, especially when those characters are hard to read and I have to try multiple times!

What I didn’t know is that creators of the technology are also sensitive to the time wasted each day by internet users, even to the point of calculating the hundreds of thousands of hours spent daily by people all over the world, each spending a few seconds of time typing in those characters.

Several years ago, von Ahn actually created a way for users of CAPTCHA to be useful. He designed re-captcha, which actually uses words from old books that are being digitized. When a computer is unable to read a word from a book because of smearing or fading, that word is used in re-captcha, allowing internet users all over the world to “translate” that word. When you are required to type in two words on a site, one of those words is known by the program, and the other is a word that needs to be translated. Amazing! Now I won’t mind using those re-captchas at all!

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Then, Luis von Ahn and others turned their attention to the task of translating websites into other languages, usually a lengthy and expensive process. But, through the creation of DuoLingo, a free language-learning app, the efforts of those who are just learning a language can be put to use in translation on the internet. DuoLingo seems to be a great program. I’ve used it a little bit, and have heard a lot of positive reviews as well. The best aspect is that it is absolutely free! I find it really cool that my (purely selfish) efforts to learn something new are being put to use to make the internet more user-friendly.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Streaming Courses at Compass Classroom

Compass Course Subscriptions

(This post contains affiliate links.)

I love Compass Classroom courses—we actually own most of them already. We went through part of Visual Latin a few years ago (such a fun way to learn Latin) and have completed Grammar of Poetry. Emily is taking Dave Raymond’s American History and Word Up! this year, and we have Economics for Everybody on the shelf and are hoping to get to it soon. I’ve heard that the Old Western Culture courses are wonderful, too. The courses are resonably priced to start with, but I’m really excited to share that they now have a streaming option for these courses.

The streaming options for these courses range to $5 to $12 each. And better yet, there is a mega-homeschool option that gives your family access to 6 courses for $14 a month!  That is a really great way to try out a course to see if it’s right for your child before making a bigger financial commitment.

This week only—until January 27, you can get your first month of any course, or even the mega-homeschool bundle for only $1.

I love Compass Classroom courses—we actually own most of them already. We went through part of Visual Latin a few years ago (such a fun way to learn Latin) and have completed Grammar of Poetry. Emily is taking Dave Raymond’s American History and Word Up! this year, and we have Economics for Everybody on the shelf and are hoping to get to it soon. I’ve heard that the Old Western Culture courses are wonderful, too. The courses are resonably priced to start with, but I’m really excited to share that they now have a streaming option for these courses.

The streaming options for these courses range to $5 to $12 each. And better yet, there is a mega-homeschool option that gives your family access to 6 courses for $14 a month!  That is a really great way to try out a course to see if it’s right for your child before making a bigger financial commitment.

This week only—until January 27, you can get your first month of any course, or even the mega-homeschool bundle for only $1.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cleaning out the Pantry

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My pantry has always been an organizational challenge. The left side of the pantry cabinet is really a broom closet—just a open cabinet with no shelving. Other than a magnetic strip on one side to hold small tools and some hooks on the other side to hold a few other things like extension cords and dog leashes, I’ve never attempted to do any organization of it. It held a carpet cleaner, and dog food and potatoes on the floor.

The right side of the cabinet has shelving, but since the cabinet is 11 inches wide and 20 inches deep, it was easy to lose things in the back.

Above the pantry is another cabinet with no shelving, used to store rags, dog towels, and unopened cereal and chips. You can see that this all was a mess!

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With the help of a few stackable shelves and Basket Organizers from Amazon and some plastic drawers that I pulled out of our pop-up camper, I was able to make this space so much more useable.The pull-out baskets help me access cans from the back of the pantry and the shelf and basket units that I put in the open cabinet give me so much more storage space.  I wish I’d tackled this project long ago!

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Monday, January 11, 2016

FREE! Hey Mama Homeschool Planner

2015-16 Cover Hey Mama

Do you need a planner to finish out this school year? For this week only (until Jan. 18), the “Hey Mama” Schoolhouse Planner 2015-16 is free. This 178 page, downloadable resource includes  weekly and monthly planning pages, attendance and goal setting forms, inspirational “Hey Mama” quotes and lots more. And you can’t beat free!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Blow Up Art

We recently visited a wonderful exhibit, “The Tsar’s Cabinet,” at our local art museum featuring porcelain of the Romanov  family. It was beautiful, and fascinating to learning about…the royal family had full services (for hundreds of people) for each home, palace, cottage, and even yacht. Dozens of pieces were on display as well as some porcelein figurines and eggs. Every piece was hand painted. Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pictures.

There was another exhibit at the museum that day, though, featuring blow up art? Who knew that inflatables could be considered art! It was pretty fun to see, though, and stretched our concept of “art.”

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Word for 2016—Kind

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It has been my practice over the past few years to pick a focus word for the year—some quality that I would like to encourage in my home or to work on as a personal quality. Words that I have chosen in previous years include “joy,” “love,” and “hope.”

This year, my word is “kind.”  I actually didn’t think long about choosing my focus word, because I have been under conviction over the past few months to intentionally be more kind. I don’t think others would ever characterize me as unkind, but I want develop into a person who cares more about others and who is careful not to speak unkindly about others.

My goals are to:

  • Not participate in, encourage, or listen to gossip. To think the best of others.
  • Look for ways to bless others, whether it is a word of thanks or encouragement or an action that helps someone.
  • When others are harsh or unkind, to respond with kindness (especially with my family members).
  • Be less self-focused. To be more aware of others’ feelings and needs.

Do you have a word for the year?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas!

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We had a fairly quiet Christmas this year. Katie wasn’t home—she took a cruise with my parents and all my sisters and their families. Allison’s fiancĂ©, James, was with us, though, so he took Katie’s place—right down to using her stocking!

We went to church on Christmas Eve, then had a quiet Christmas day at home, opening presents and playing games. I do love having a houseful of people here for the holidays!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas!

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Mt. 2:10-11

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Is Homeschooling Changing?


Many people are concerned about the changes that the Common Core standards are bringing to the public schools. The emphasis on testing is changing educational practices. Children are spending less and less of their school day in play, hands-on activities, and creative pursuits because of the time required to prepare for high-stakes tests. It’s sad to see playtime and recess taken away from even Kindergarteners. I’m seeing families become interested in homeschooling as they look for educational alternatives that are more age appropriate.

I’m wondering, though, if some of the same things are happening within the homeschool community. Many of the homeschooling pioneers a generation ago rejected the whole concept of traditional schools. Innovators like Raymond Moore and John Holt suggested that formal education shouldn’t even begin until children were 8 or older. They believed that children learned best when they had a lot of time to follow their own interests and that the best education came from reading quality books and from hands-on experiences instead of workbooks and standardized texts. When I began homeschooling 20 years ago, it seemed that many homeschoolers were influenced by these ideas, even if they didn’t embrace an unschooling philosophy. I’m sure that part of  the issue was that, in the 80’s, you couldn’t just go out and buy a “full curriculum,” and many publishers wouldn’t sell to homeschoolers! This left parents piecing together curriculum based on what their children needed, as well as using the library heavily.

Homeschooling has become more mainstream in recent years, but I am seeing an increase in parents who are not really committed to homeschooling or may not even have a desire to teach their children at home. Some are just escaping a negative public school situation and their goal is to find the easiest way to “do school.” Others are invested in their children’s education, but don’t realize that there is any other way to learn than to work through a stack of public school textbooks each year. They are so worried about “gaps,” that they try to exactly replicate what the public schools are doing, sometimes adding a Christian focus. The fact that homeschoolers often take standardized tests also adds to the pressure to keep up.

Certainly, whatever the method of homeschooling, there is an advantage to individual tutoring and to working at the child’s own pace. There is certainly nothing wrong with textbooks or traditional education, but there are so many  more possibilities. Snuggling on the couch with a stack of great books, rather than spending hours filling out workbook pages, encouraging children to explore and create, to act out history lessons, and to experiment with science concepts will create students who love to learn and who know how to teach themselves. These activities may (or may not) demand more of the parents’ time and can lead to doubts about whether you are “doing enough,” but I think the lower stress environment and the more enjoyable school time can lead to a much greater love of learning.  And maybe some children really aren’t ready to learn to read until they are 7 or 8 or 9.

I wonder if the fact that homeschooling is so mainstream and “easy” now with the plethora of curricula choices available has made us think we have to choose the “right” curriculum and work though it without really considering how our children learn.

I wonder if imitating the public schools rather than questioning their methods and searching for a better way is really best for our children.

What do you think?