Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Keyboarding

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I have to think back a bit to remember my beginning keyboarding days.  It was called “typing” back in the day, and there were about eight of us in the back of a classroom listening to our instructor over the whir of the electric typewriters.  “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” A-a-a-S-s-s-;-;-;-L-l-l 

(zzzzzzz…)

But it worked, I suppose.  I took to typing quite well, and can easily break 90wmp when I’m on a roll.  My kids, however, learned typing QUITE differently.  And yet, even their techie keyboarding tools are quickly becoming outdated.  So I’m going to share with you a mixture of my favorite tried-and-true programs, along with some cutting edge tools that are in store for THIS generation’s typists.

  • Read, Write, and Type – – my absolute fave multisensory, multi-learning-style phonics program for kids!  By combining hearing sounds, typing keys, and writing words, in my opinion this is one of the best programs out there for young readers and keyboarders.  It’s also now available online!
  • If you are REALLY serious about having you or or child learn to type, you might consider a device made just for this purpose.  Both my boys perfected their keyboarding skills by using  The Writer
  • Another no-nonsense program I’ve heard great things about is TypingWeb.  You can even be “certified” by the Typing Institute of America (hey, sometimes those things matter to people!!)
  • If you have a dedicated typing program, but just want some fun practice, I highly recommend the keyboarding games at LearningGamesForKids.
  • If you, like me, aren’t sure keyboards are going to look very much like they do now in the next ten years, then you might want to have your child also focus on some skills for the very near future…touchscreen typing.  Think I’m kidding?  Check out this technology that could leave us key-tappers in the dust:
    My other question is…can accurate voice-directed typing be far behind??  In fact, maybe this whole POST is basically obsolete!! (((sigh))) I’ve never felt so useless in all my life…

 

To view ALL the Fridays’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints posts, click here.

Putting Real Life on Hold

This is the week.  The week of the school year that always makes me cringe and make scrunchy faces and feel like taking more than one shower a day.

This week is STANDARDIZED TEST week.

Hmph!j0439533

Our state is BIG on the standardized testing.  I mean it’s REALLY  important here, for some reason.  I’m pretty sure that if every other child in America got “left behind” the ones in our state would stick their tongues out at them and deride them for not being able to fill in those little circles correctly. 

In our public schools here, they start teaching “Testing Skills” in kindergarten.  I’m not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that recesses were shortened so that kindergarteners could get in their Testing Skills practice daily! (And our state legislature can’t for the life of them figure out why there is so much growth in homeschooling here in the last five years.  I guess standardized testing doesn’t necessarily guarantee brilliant politicians??)

But sadly, homeschoolers are not immune to the testing fetish here either.  Our state homeschooling regulations include a requirement that homeschoolers take a nationally standardized test annually.  As much as I have always detested high stakes testing and all that it represents, I admit that this year it has bugged me more than ever.

Probably because we are in such a terrific relaxed-learning groove.  In fact, neither Uber nor H-T has taken anything close to a “test” this entire school year.  And yet now, they are supposed to stop what they are doing, halt their enthusiasm for whatever it is they are learning at the moment, and prove their knowledge by sitting at a desk for two hours at a stretch and filling in little circles with a specifically numbered pencil. 

I remember back in my public school days when we would have a half day of testing-prep followed by a whole day of testing.  And I’ll never forget one of my science teachers getting up the next day and opening up our text book and saying…”well, let’s get back to real life, shall we?”  The teachers knew better than anyone that what we had been doing for two days was completely ridiculous, highly political, and a huge waste of time.  They knew, and yet they were required to do it anyway.

I feel so helplessly in the same shoes today.  Heaven only knows how anxiously I await “real life” to resume again.

Why We Homeschool…The Sequel

So.

Where were we?

Oh yeah.  Deciding whether or not to send my little guy back into the world of mass-market learning.  Well…I spent the whole summer before Uber’s 1st grade year studying my options…

  • Private school?  Not even an possibility.  Therapies and doctors visits had already put our rears in arrears.
  • Public school? Scary.  I’d heard horror stories from local moms about how their kids with special needs were mercilessly teased and how services for kids with IEP’s or even worse – – giftedness – – were basically non-existent.
  • Charter school?  Hey, there’s an option. So we went for it!

But no one told me that the brand new charter school which was getting such rave reviews had a waiting list about three miles long. (and btw, Uber could’ve probably done the unit conversion for that to kilometers in his head at that age!)

So we homeschooled again the next year.  And the next.  And it was a rousing success. But when H-T’s time came along, would you believe I STILL couldn’t quite give up the dream?  That’s right, H-T’s cute little five-year-old tushie was marched right into kindergarten. 

And yes, I got to be a homeroom helper.  And wait in the drop-off/pick-up line.  And even bring cupcakes for his birthday.  The whole kit-n-kaboodle!!  Yet when his teachers sat down with me for his first conference and told me they suspected he might have a learning disability, the very first thought that came to my mind was…

“Well, I’ll just homeschool him then.”

So I did.

And except for a short bout of Uber wanting to try his wings in school during sixth grade and part of seventh, that is exactly what we have done. 

Not because I didn’t believe in the public school system – – far from it.  But because I believed it was the best choice for my individual kiddos.  And I still believe it…so much so that this year I’ve even trusted my kids enough to put the bulk of the responsibility for their education into their own hands. 

And when they sit in their therapist’s office twenty years from now, and regale her with tales of how they are in the crappy mess they are in because their mother didn’t “socialize” them properly, I will STILL believe I made the right choice.  (and probably also that my latest facelift makes me looks a little too much like Charo)

But those are the breaks, kids.  All I can do is what I think is best for my boys, who I say I “love” when “love” doesn’t even begin to cut it. 

Here’s hoping they’ll think so too someday…

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Environmental Education

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic My ecological footprint has definitely shrunk in the last ten years.  Our family has made both big and small changes to help nurture our favorite planet back to health. For instance, we’ve moved completely to cloth napkins, which I discovered you can get for about 10 cents each at most thrift stores – – cheap enough to keep even my messy family clean!  And we did the whole “lowering the thermostat by 2 degrees” this winter, which I honestly can say I’ve barely noticed.

Environmentalism has been an important issue for our family since our kids were knee-high to grasshoppers, so integrating environmental education into our homeschooling has been fairly seamless.  But if you have been looking for some concrete ways to study ecological concepts with your kiddos, here are a few resources you might want to check out…

  • First things first…to help your kids even understand why they need to be environmentally conscious, have the whole family take this quiz to get a good hard look at your ecological footprint
  • There is a social network for everything, but if your teen shows an interest in environmental activism, you might want to introduce him or her to Teens for Planet Earth
  • For the younger set, I really like EduGreen for interactive explorations into the environment
  • Of course the EPA has some great educational resources as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page where you can choose from elementary, middle school, or high school materials
  • If your kids appreciate hands-on learning, you might want to check out the GLOBE program for a chance to really get involved in the solution
  • Finally, just for its “coolness” factor, be sure to stop by Pulse of the Planet for a daily 2-minute “sound portrait” of planet Earth…just to build the love for our home

Check out the full collection of Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints here

Where the Wired Things Are

So I thought I would give you an update on our unschooling adventure and how that’s going.  As you can guess, even our unschooling tends toward the techie. 

Uber is busily learning Java and studying artificial intelligence.  He’s also considering joining a local group that meets regularly to discuss how Linux can take over the world. 

H-T is writing a book.  I KNOW!! I WAS SO EXCITED TOO!! Until I realized the book is based on the life of a video game character.  But hey, he’s WRITING A BOOK.  Beggars will NOT be choosers in this house.  And anyway, the book is actually pretty darn good so far.  I’m actually invested enough to care about this video game persona! 

Other, slightly non-techie pursuits include their music lessons Canterbury Tales, Woodcut 1484(Uber’s taking piano and H-T’s taking guitar), we’re reading through the Canterbury Tales (thanks to Holly!) and studying a bit of Medieval History, and they are also getting ready to take part in Drama Club, where the spring play happens to be Robin Hood – – how serendipitous!  They also are both doing well with their math studies, which Uber takes on YourTeacher.com, and H-T uses Time4Learning

Overall, this has been an amazingly successful experiment, so far.  I don’t think I could have done it when the boys were in their elementary years…but interest-led learning is SO VERY PERFECT for the middle and high school years!!

Early Edition: Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – Thanksgiving

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic Yep, I’m kicking in this week’s HHH post a couple days early so that you homeschoolers can get in on some terrific Thanksgiving-related educational treats online.

I’ve come across most of these in the past few days, and just knew I needed a special post for sharing them. 

 

Please enjoy…and of course, have a

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

    Happy Thanksgiving 1

    Awww…They’re Human Again

    Parthenon from west

    Image via Wikipedia

    So yesterday, I gave into the whine that had been building up, and gave it free rein.

    But today, I have been privileged to sit on the sidelines and watch and listen as my two wonderful young men have made their plans for learning today.  Thanks to the suggestion of Stone-Age Techie, we have begun to read aloud the first in the Percy Jackson series to supplement Uber’s current interest in Ancient Greek culture.

    This read-aloud has led to a natural interest on H-T’s part in Ancient Greece as well – – especially the different gods and their attributes. So, the boys have added a documentary on Ancient Greece to the Instant Watch queue on Netflix.  Then, together (yes I said TOGETHER), they have decided to watch that documentary over the network, on our new BluRay player.

    Then, as I have sat hear quietly eavesdropping from the bedroom, my two free-form scholars have begun watching and making the most awesome comments back and forth about things like airborne illnesses, Sparta, and the Coliseum.  It is a beautiful thing to listen to!

    So I think at least PART of the prescription for the illness that is teenage-dom must be taking charge of one’s own education.  Perhaps it meets some of the cravings for independence that are so common at that age.  Whatever the reason, I’m feeling pretty doggone happy about this educational experiment.

    For today, I have my young men back.  And I have unschooling to thank.

     

    p.s. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to head back to Monday’s Topsy-Techie birthday giveaway to enter for a chance to win the Martha Stewart cake decorating kit!