Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Keyboarding

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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  And yet, even their techie keyboarding tools are quickly becoming outdated.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.

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

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Art

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I have just about the least amount of natural art talent of anyone I know.  Stick figures are the highlight of my art portfolio.  Thankfully, I married a fella with MAD art skills, so I hoped it would sort of even-out our gene pool.  The boys were lucky that they took more after their dad than me.

But when dad’s not around, you can bet that if I want to teach art, it’s going to have to involve the computer somehow.  So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite art-related sites on the web  – – just in case – – like me – – your idea of modern art also happens to be those cool Google doodles at the top of your search page!

  • Creativity Express Online– This awesome art program is like a full multimedia art curriculum. With great lessons on things like Lines, Shape and Form, and even Fibonacci! this is one of the premiere art programs available to homeschoolers. (Creativity Express is now offered as a free bonus elective for Time4Learning curriculum subscribers in grades 5 and up!!)
  • Art Attacks – comprehensive collection of great projects that can be done at home.  Also includes lists of everything you will need to accomplish each project.
  • smART kids – Chicago Museum of Art’s website for children. Includes interactive games and activities that help kids (7-12) get a different perspective on art.
  • KinderArt – probably one of the largest collections of free art lessons on the net!
  • NGA Kids – The National Gallery of Art Kids site, which has some way-cool online art gadgets for exploring creativity
  • Artcyclopedia – For looking up just about ANYTHING you could possibly want to know about art and artists
  • In the Gallery – Explore both a traditional and modern art gallery and see how what you think about the pieces matches up with professional art critics
  • The Power of Art – High School level material from the BBC about the affect art has on our thinking and our emotions.
  • Eyes on Art – sequential series of activities that lead teachers/students through exploration of many different aspects of the visual arts
  • Artsonia – and finally, what are you going to do with all that art your kids create?  Well, you are going to upload it to Artsonia where you can not only share it with friends and family, but even turn it into cool gifts!

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Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Best iPhone Apps For Homeschoolers

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic Once Uber received his netbook for Christmas – – ahem, should I say his second netbook – – he had no need to share the iPod Touch with me anymore, so it finally became mine – – all mine!!

Oh boy, it’s been like Christmas for me every day because every day I discover some cool and exciting new application that I hadn’t dreamed of before.

Now granted, the majority of them are about as useful as a raincoat in the Sahara, but there are a few that are incredibly handy – – even for homeschoolers!!

  • Amazon Kindle for iPhone – the absolute first application you need to download – – period – – is the Kindle app.  Instant access to books, magazines, periodicals, etc. is an absolute MUST for a homeschooling mom.  Every homeschooling book you can think of is probably available via Kindle, but don’t shell out 300 smackeroos for a Kindle device, just add it FREE to your iPhone and voila!
  • Evernote – The ultimate online organizer is also a terrific iPhone app!  You can create text, photo, or even audio notes of everything you want to track in your homeschool – – lessons, projects, field trips, grades.  You name it – you can organize it in Evernote and then sync it with any computer.
  • Poptiq – If you are a car schooler – – even every once in a while – – you will want Poptiq.  Download educational videos from anywhere on the net, and then take with you on the go.  Why shouldn’t your kids be able to watch Discovery Channel on the way to gymnastics??
  • Classics – for your bibliophiles, be sure they have access to a fun and easy way to read the best of classic literature!
  • Google Earth – you love it on the web and you’ll love it on the iPhone!
  • Today in History – what an incredibly fun way to open up each school day!  Take turns with your iPod touch and let each family member have a day sharing what important events happened on this day.
  • Wikipanion – Free app that provides easy navigation, search, and use of Wikipedia.  Awesome tool!!
  • WorldCat – locate any book in any library, worldwide!
  • Oregon Trail – there is a free and a paid version of this great program which has come to iPhone in all its glory!
  • Brain Quest for iPhone – those cards that every homeschooler had somewhere in the back of their minivan have gone hi-tech! You can download Brain Quest apps by grade and subject.  Still great for car rides or waiting in the doctor’s office.
  • Mathomatic – solve even the most complicated math problems in step by step fashion so you can finally understand WHY you get the correct answer.
  • Narrator – multimedia storytelling platform for the iPhone and iPod touch.  Great for students with learning differences!
  • iVocabulary – perfect foreign language tool for beginning learners.  Learn vocabulary for multiple languages.

If you have a favorite iPhone app for homeschooling that I haven’t listed, be sure to mention it in the comments!

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 – What about Writing?

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One of the things I see over and over in homeschool forums and in homeschool-related email groups is a fear of teaching writing.  I don’t know if it is because we didn’t feel like we got adequate writing instruction ourselves, or we just put so much emphasis on the importance of strong writing skills. 

Truth is, though, that those of us with a B.A. in Writing aren’t immune to this fear.  I find myself sort of hoping all that reading my kids do will simply “rub off” on them without me having to do much actual instruction in writing!  ;)  But I am also a realist. So I’ve been doing some research lately on some very cool online helps for teaching writing to your homeschoolers of all ages.

  • I think I’ve mentioned before the great online writing classes at Time4Writing.  Each of my boys is going to be taking another one of these next semester.  There are classes for every student level – – from elementary to high school and college prep!
  • For a quick writing refresher, there are some neat Writing Videos at neoK12.
  • GrammarGirl is a fun and easy way to get your teens excited about writing.  She has terrific podcasts, a Facebook fan page, and even some actual paperback books with a quirky, fun style.
  • There is no better way to get young kids excited about writing than by letting them create their own picture book.
  • If you have boys, like I do, then you know how powerful graphic novels can be on motivation to write.  Maybe you already have dozens and dozens of pages of cartoon-style writing sitting around on your coffee table.  If so, one online tool you might want to check out is Lulu.com.  Lulu helps you self publish anything you want – – even graphic novels – – and turn it into a nice hardcover book, if you like.  (Talk about a great birthday idea!)
  • If your kids keep a journal, or you like the idea of having them journal as a daily writing assignment, you will appreciate the writing prompts at Writing Fix.
  • And some of my favorite all-time writing tools for students can be found at ReadWriteThink.  Take your time and check them all out.

I’m going to TRY to feel a little less daunted by homeschooling writing in the near future…how about you??

Giveaway at SecularHomeschool.com

 

Just want to make sure my peeps here know about the December giveaway I’m doing over at SecularHomeschool.com!  This month, there will be 2 members who will win a free 8-week writing course of their choice from Time4Writing™!! ($99 value)

These eight-week online writing courses help elementary, middle and high school students build writing skills through one-on-one interaction with a certified teacher. Students study a new topic each week through automated online exercises, lessons, readings, and written assignments. A personal writing teacher reviews and provides feedback on each assignment, the day after it is submitted.

Courses to choose from include:

  • Sensational Sentences

  • Welcome to the Essay

  • Perfect Paragraphs

  • High School Research Papers

  • many more!!

If you haven’t joined the site yet, now is a great time.  H-T has taken one of these courses and they are terrific!  So don’t miss out on your chance to get in on one!