April Giveaway at SecularHomeschool.com

cooltext454244746 Just launched the April giveaway at SHS.com today, so head over and enter if you have (or will have) a child in 2nd-5th grade and would be interested in winning a secular-based homeschool chemistry curriculum from Pandia Press.


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!!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – Summer Brain Boosters

summerToday is our last official day of homeschool for the year, and we are  ready to celebrate by vegging out for three months.  Only problem?  Our brains turn to mush when we aren’t exercising them. Mine is probably much worse than the boys – – I can practically watch my brain cells slough off and fall out my ears if I don’t keep myself mentally stimulated.

If your family is similar to ours, then you might appreciate some of the following ideas for keeping the ole educational nerve endings greased up – – the techie way, of course.

Time4Learning offers a way for kids to keep their minds sharp AND entertained with their summer learning program.  And Time4Writing continues to offer writing classes throughout the summer as well, with courses in sentence writing, paragraph writing, essay writing, and basic mechanics. 

The Wii offers some excellent opportunities for educational fun over the dog days of summer.  Two games coming out this summer that look like winners are: Science Papa, a virtual science lab featuring 30 different experiments and Space Camp, where you are an aspiring astronaut in training.  Amazon.com has a good list of additional Wii games that can be considered educational, as well.

But you don’t have to pay the big bucks to get some educational fun out of Wii this summer.  All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and your Wii remote.  Arcademics Skills Builders has taken some of their best online games and made them optimized for the Wii.  So if you can navigate to their website using your Wii Browser, you can play games like Meteor Multiplication and Verb Viper for free! (http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/wiilist.htm)

If you have a rising tech-geek in your family, you might be interested in iD Tech computer camps.  Based in over 60 universities around the country, these camps specialize in video game design, 3D modeling, robotics, web design and digital graphics.  There is probably one near you!  But they fill up fast, so register as soon as possible.

What’s that you say? You actually want your children to go OUTSIDE this summer??  Well, if you’re that type of parent, then I guess it can’t be helped.  But you might be interested in stopping by the Kid’s Valley Garden first, to brush up on all the ins and outs of those veggies, herbs, and flowering things that you’ll be (*gasp*) interacting with out there in the real world. 

As for me, I’ll be taking a break from Friday’s HHH for a couple months myself…   But not to worry.  I’ll keep my brain from turning to mincemeat SOMEHOW. 


Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Science Experiments

 fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I haven’t touched on a whole lot of science sites or programs in HHH so far, so today I’m being both scientifically minded AND lazy.

Yes, I said lazy, because I’m just sending you somewhere else for today’s homeschool techie goodness.  Why do all that work compiling sites when someone else has already done it for you, I always say?

So today, head over to the following post from MakeUseOf.com (my all-time fave techie destination), and check out some fun sites about science experiments you can do right at home. 

Then come back here and congratulate me, because if I’m not mistaken, I’ve posted on this here blog EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS WEEK!!  What’s up with THAT?!  (Don’t get comfortable, folks)


Try Fun Science Experiments At Home With These 6 Websites | MakeUseOf.com


CSI…Here I Come!

I don’t normally delve too deeply into what we are doing on a daily basis in our homeschool…partly because a lot of what the boys use for curriculum is online, and partly because when other homeschool moms start rattling off the details of their studies, I find myself quickly hitting the “back” button, and praying they don’t check their Feedburner status to discover that I actually only spent 1.7 seconds at their blog that day.

But I’m going to make an exception today and tell you about this cool kit that H-T and I found at Barnes and Noble a couple months ago, and how it has enriched my days. ( Ok, so actually I bought it for H-T, but that’s beside the point.)Great Forensic Challenge

The kit is called “The Great Forensic Challenge” and it includes a  book of suspects with their pictures, fingerprints, and DNA codes and any other info known about them.  Then there is a newspaper filled with twenty crimes, which you read, one by one, and try to figure out what kind of evidence would be left at the scene…fabric samples, DNA, fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks, etc. 

Also, there are all these cool little boxes that include fingerprint slides, DNA code bars, tweezers, magnifiers, and lots of other cool stuff to either help you solve the crimes in the newspaper, or practice your own crime collection skills.  And to top it all off, each box has its own little book breaking down all the science involved in cracking cases like these.

So H-T and I have been using this kit for science a couple times a week now.  What I haven’t told him is that I am having so much fun solving the crimes that I have been sneaking into his room when he is busy elsewhere and looking ahead in the newspaper and getting out all of the cool forensic tools and playing detective.  In fact, I’ve already got the next four crimes solved! 

I’m actually pretty ticked off that this hidden talent of mine never came up in those high school career evaluations the guidance counselor assured me would help me find my true path.  My tests inevitably always came out with something akin to “accounting” or “social worker.”  Those don’t give you nearly the same thrill that holding bloodied fingernails under a magnifying glass do.

Anyway.  I’ll always wonder now if I missed my true calling. 

So that’s what’s going on in homeschool these days.  And yes, I will be checking Feedburner to see just how long YOU lasted today. 


Romans and Tire Pressure and Zombies…Oh My!

One thing I nearly never do on my blog is regale you with details about what we are studying in homeschool.  Mostly, that’s because when other homeschool bloggers do it, I tend to nod off for a minute.  Not that it isn’t important – – because it IS!  But somehow the excitement of a homeschool lesson is one of those things where, well, “you had to be there,” I guess.

But we’re at the end of our first “semester”, and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed nostalgic about all that we’ve covered so far this year.  So granted, this is probably more for my sake than yours, but I’m gonna lay it out there.  If nothing else, it will justify my existence as a homeschool mom.

Uber, as you may remember, is in his second year at the 3D virtual school called Wilostar 3D Academy.  He attends class via avatar, and uploads his assignments to his teachers.  First semester of 9th grade at Wilostar includes Ancient Civilization, 9th grade Integrated Language Arts, and Art.  Wilostar uses an integrated learning model, so that what you are studying in social studies or history is tied in with your literature assignments in Language Arts.  He covered everything from Ancient Egypt, to Ancient Rome, to Ancient China, and Ancient Africa.  And to supplement his studies he has read the following novels: Pharaoh’s Daughter, The Golden Goblet, Inside the Walls of Troy, and Siddhartha.self_portrait One of the highlights of the semester, of course, was his virtual performance in the story of King Midas.

For art, he has created a complete online portfolio, which I think is a really cool idea.  Using the DK Art Book as his text, he has learned about, and experimented with: shading, distance, pastels and color mixing, perspective, texture, shape and form, cartooning, and self-portraiture (see right).

In addition to his online work, Uber was also subjected to my self-designed Life Skills course.  Determined that no child of mine will head out to university or the working world without at least knowing how to check the tire pressure in a vehicle, I have put Uber through the paces of personal finance, character ed, automobile maintenance, job skills, and public transportation. Next semester is cooking and cleaning and sewing on buttons (basically home-ec, but let’s keep that little title between us, k?)

This is only Uber’s “official” education, though. That kid seems to be learning about something 24/7.  He has taught himself 3D-modeling, graphic design using Photoshop, hex-editing, and creating and designing his own trading cards. He is also slowly working on a fantasy drama novel.

Hyper-Techie (H-T) has had a busy semester as well.  He uses the Time4Learning online homeschool curriculum, and has been breezing right through math and language arts this year.  Geometry is his strong suit (not too surprising for a right-brainer), and he has made 100 on almost every geometry quiz so far!  T4L has an incredible 7th grade American History course that is animated and interactive.  I’m so jealous!  And we are supplementing that with a cool electronic field trip curriculum from Colonial Williamsburg, where we long to take a family trip one day.

H-T doesn’t stop there though.  I created my own earth science curriculum for him which involves lots of videos on Discovery’s United Streaming. We are working through the Saxon Phonics Intervention program, which is helping incredibly with the spelling troubles he deals with due to his dyslexia.  And he is also logo-final taking guitar this year and is just beginning to learn his very first song.  H-T needs to get his hands dirty, so to speak, and guide his own learning somewhat, so he is currently spending a little time each day on “social skills” – – interacting on the Fusefly social network for homeschooled kids.  He has made some pretty neat buddies online, actually.  And his current self-directed project is a screenplay B-Movie about zombies.  Thanks to a terrific online screenwriting program at zhura.com, a finished screenplay is a very real possibility for a motivated 12-year-old!

Whew!  Oh my!

The main conclusion I’ve come to after this post?  We are SO ready for Christmas break!!!

Cool Resource For Elementary Science Unit Study

science songs

Learninggamesforkids.com has created a unique way to introduce some specific science concepts to elementary age students.  It has begun to create interdisciplinary units for their science music videos.

If you have visited the site recently, you may have noticed that they have introduced animated musical videos about four science subjects: hurricanes, the sun, stars, and thunder.  These science songs use video, music, and text to capture the attention of kids with all different learning styles.

But Learninggamesforkids.com has gone a step further with two of the videos, the Hurricane Song and the Sun Song.  They have created vocabulary lists, spelling tests, and several interactive games that complement the videos and let kids practice and play with what they have learned.

Every parent and teacher knows that engaging with a subject is the most effective way to learn it and retain it.  I think these science units will do just that for kids.

And watch the site closely over the next few months, because I’m pretty sure that they will be adding supplemental resources for the other two videos, as well as adding more science videos to the list. 

If you have an elementary school child, head on over and make use of this terrific science tool today!