Using Audio Books in Homeschool

Books are the number one way to learn. It doesn’t matter what you want to know about, you’re sure to find at least one book on the topic. Sometimes you don’t really have time to read, though, so what should you do? Listen to an audio book!

a cup of coffe and a smartphone. the phone has an audiobook cover on its screen and a pair of earbuds nearby.

We use audio books often in our home. Grasshopper loves listening to them, and he listens to something pretty much every single night before bed. Listening to books rather than reading them helps him to get into slightly more advanced stories than he’s ready to read. He’s a smart kid, has fantastic comprehension, but is still easing into reading longer books. So audio books are a great tool for him.

Scorpion enjoys making animations. He also does some art-work (not to be confused with artwork) for Will sometimes. In order to make the most of his time, assuring that he gets his schoolwork done even when he’s been given a “real” job by Dad, he utilizes audio books. When I assigned him Tom Sawyer, he was able to find a free audio book version that he listened to while he was doing his other work. Best of both worlds.

I go through phases when there’s just nothing on any of the streaming services that I’m interested in. During those “droughts,” I often revert to audio books, which I listen to while I knit or crochet at night. I have three main apps I use for audio book consumption. Chirp is a good one because they have reasonably low prices on their audio books. I was able to get 3 books for free once using a coupon code (good for $5) from a YouTube channel I watch. The best thing about Chirp is that it’s not a subscription service. You just pay for the books you want, and you have them to keep. Audible is the next one, and I’m sure you’ve heard of them. It’s owned by Amazon, so probably everyone has an Audible account whether you know it or not! For one monthly fee, you get a “free” audio book each month. For a slightly higher fee, you can upgrade and get two per month. Often, you can get a free trial of Audible – with a new Amazon account, or even if you just haven’t used Audible in a while. And the final app I use and recommend for audio books is Overdrive. This is a library app, and it’s connected to many libraries. If you have a card for your traditional library, you should check out Overdrive (or Libby, which is under the same umbrella; I don’t use it though, so I can’t vouch for it) and see if your library system is supported. They have thousands of audio books (and Kindle books, for when you do have time to read!) that you can get with your library card. You don’t have to worry about returning them, like you would with a booklet of CDs if you were to get an audio book from the physical library. When the loan period ends, the title is automatically returned – no late fines! And Overdrive works even if your library card is riddled with fines (ask me how I know).

There are other uses for audio books, too. Take, for example, the One More Story app that I reviewed a couple of months ago. It’s a great audio book option for younger children because it also includes the pictures from the books. As I mentioned back then, sometimes you as the parent want to read aloud but just can’t for one reason or another. Audio books are a fantastic resource to use in those times.

Do you have a child who struggles with dyslexia? Audio books can be a lifesaver for him or her. It allows the child to hear the book properly rather than stumbling through the reading, getting words mixed up and becoming frustrated. While I’ve never tried this, it might even benefit a child to listen to the audio book while following along with a physical copy. Combine the audio and visual components to create a stronger reader.

What other uses are there for audio books in an educational setting?

Blessings,

A Day in our Life

Welcome to the final week of the Homeschool Review Crew’s Not-Back-To-Homeschool Blog hop! This week, members of the Crew are sharing a sampling of a day in their homeschool life. Join me for an average day for our family!

9:00 a.m.

          The little kids and I wake up. I get the kids cereal for breakfast.

9:30 a.m.

          I wake up the older kids and they eat their breakfast and/or drink coffee (in the case of Ballet Boy).

10-11:30 a.m.

         The big kids dive right into their lists. The little kids and I do our Bible reading. Then they usually do some drawing or other low key activity. I don’t like getting into anything too heavy during this time because I know I’ll have to stop to make lunch.

11:30 a.m.

          I prepare lunch. I usually have Grasshopper work on something he can do without help during this time (like CTC Math).

12-1 p.m.

          Lunch time (including clean up).

1-4 p.m.

          We’re not super scheduled during this time. The older kids work on their assignments (Scorpion on Khan Academy, Ballet Boy studying for the GED). I work with the younger kids.

          Grasshopper (entering 4th grade) does literature (reading aloud to me); math, if he didn’t get it done earlier; grammar (IEW’s Fix It! Grammar); science (from SchoolhouseTeachers.com); history (also from SchoolhouseTeachers.com);and writing (using My First Reports from Hewitt Homeschooling).

          Dragonfly (K/1st) does simple things. He really likes working on Reading Eggs, and he also loves making lap books. We’re currently working on one about Bats from Homeschool Share. He also listens during the science lessons, but doesn’t do much in the way of assignments with that.

          Bumblebee (who turns 3 this weekend) tends to wander about a bit during school lessons. He really likes watching his brother work on Reading Eggs, and he also has a lot of fun doing Khan Academy Kids lessons. If I have a bit of down time, I help him with that. We also read lots of picture books – his favorites are the “If You Give…” series (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, for example).

4-6 p.m.

          The kids have free time to play outside with their friends, or inside if the weather is bad. I continue trying to keep Bumblebee busy, and around 5:00 I start preparing dinner.

6 p.m.

          Dinner. Generally, we all eat together 5-7 nights a week. Some weeks, Will works late and doesn’t join us every night. Sometimes we have date night and the teens babysit. But generally we all eat together.

7-9 p.m.

          The older kids play outside some more (or inside, in the winter). I do the dishes, and Bumblebee either gets lucky and the big kids take him outside, or he watches a bit of TV to keep him out of trouble.

          Bumblebee goes to bed at 8:30. Dragonfly and Grasshopper go to bed between 9 and 9:30, depending on how long it takes the baby (I use that term loosely these days) to fall asleep. I found that he is much better behaved at bedtime if he goes to bed on his own, and since the three of them share a room, staggered bed times are my friend.

          Once they come in from outside, the teens usually have a bit of free time until around 10, at which time Will wraps up work for the day (if he hasn’t already), and we do some sort of media time together, the 4 of us (sometimes the 3 of them, depending on what’s chosen). Movies, TV shows, etc. We all go to bed between midnight and 1 a.m.

So that’s us – a family of night owls! Make sure to click through any of the links below to find out more about other homeschool families and their schedules.

Blessings,

 

 

This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew Not-Back-To-Homeschool Blog Hop. Click on any of the links below to explore this topic further.


Last Minute Back-to-Homeschool

This post contains affiliate links.

It’s back to school time for most of the country! What an exciting time of year! Are you ready? Because I’m not. As much as I love the fall and get excited for back to school with my kids, I enjoy the freedom of summer and just letting the kids run around outside most of the day (except for Bumblebee, who’s not quite 3 – his birthday is next weekend).

an hourglass with red sand sitting on top of an open newspaper

We live in a state that doesn’t start school until September (the day after Labor Day, specifically). As a former public school student, I’ve always followed that same basic schedule with my kids. Over the years, we’ve slowly grown less attached to the public schools’ guidelines, but there’s a small part of me that just can’t keep the boys working hard all summer long. I don’t think I’d make a good year-round homeschooler! So every year around this time, it’s time to start thinking about back to school things.

I posted earlier this summer about our plans for high school. Read what Scorpion is doing, and how Ballet Boy is studying for his GED. They will also work on review products as they come up, but their basics are covered already.

Let’s talk about curriculum choices for the younger set. Maybe our choices will help inspire you. And keep reading to the end of this post for a special offer from the Homeschool Review Crew, too.

Grasshopper (4th Grade)

Literature: He will be reading a few books aloud to me this year. First up, Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom. He owns an autographed copy of this book and has been desperate to read it for a long time. It’s finally time! It takes him quite a while to get through a novel, so I’m holding future selections loosely for the time being. As of right now, I plan to write a post each month with our new reading choices, but that might change as the school year progresses.

Math: CTCMath, with random other things to supplement.

Grammar: Fix It! Grammar from IEW. He got about halfway through book 1 (The Nose Tree) last school year, so he will finish that up and then move straight into book 2 (Robin Hood). He loves this program! The biggest issue I have is slowing him down; he prefers to do an entire week’s worth of work every day! But I need to make sure he understands the concepts, not just gets through the book.

Science: Every other day, alternated with history. We will be utilizing our SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership for science. There’s lots of fun science classes for 4th grade on there, so we will work through them over the course of the school year. “Discovering Disgusting Things” sounds like a good place to start for a 9-year-old boy!

History: My plan is to work on a variety of things from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. We’re going to start with their Lapbooking Through the Ages course because he did so well with the Home School in the Woods lapbook course we reviewed over the summer.

Writing: Even though he’s a little old for them, we are using My First Reports from Hewitt Homeschooling (they don’t have a landing page for all of the different options, but here’s one on mammals so you can see what they’re all about and then poke around on their site for more options). He was such a late reader that these reports work well for him, even though he’s 9 years old. They provide such a strong writing (and learning to research) foundation that they’re a fantastic resource.

Dragonfly (K)

Dragonfly is young enough that we’re still taking things reasonably slowly with him. He works on Reading Eggs every day, and does a combination of Math Seeds and CTCMath for mathematics. I also plan to start him on Khan Academy Kids this year. Bumblebee has been playing with that app and loves it, so I know Dragonfly will too. We will also continue to have him read simple books, with the goal of graduating to more mainstream books (maybe even his first novel or biography) in the spring. I will also add in a few things from SchoolhouseTeachers.com for him, and maybe a few lapbooks from Homeschool Share. I want his first official year of school to be both well-rounded and fun, and I think using this combination of resources, without focusing on specific subjects, will accomplish that.

I also plan to read the New Testament aloud to these two kiddos. It was about this age when the older set and I did that together, so it’s time for the younger set to get that experience too.

Now for that special offer from the Homeschool Review Crew! They’re giving away a subscription to SchoolhouseTeachers.com this week. The giveaway starts on Saturday, so make sure to head over to the Review Crew website this weekend for more information!

What grades are you teaching this year? What are your curriculum choices?

Blessings,

 

 

This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop. Make sure to check out other posts in this series in the linky below!



Homeschool Encouragement, Incentives, and Rewards

If you’re a parent, you know that children respond well to rewards. Just think about it. What’s one of the biggest tips to potty-training your toddler? Give them praise and rewards when they “do their business” in the toilet. Never punish them for getting it wrong. Why would older children, school-age children, be any different? They’re not.

Homeschool Encouragement, incentives, and rewards

We likely spend all day encouraging our children, even if we don’t realize we’re doing it. “Good job, buddy.” “Nice work!” “I’m so proud of you.” Those are just a few of the things that parents tell their children on a regular basis. Sometimes you need a bit more though, and that’s where incentives and rewards can come in.

Incentives and rewards are similar in concept, but not exactly the same. An incentive can become a reward, but it starts out as its own thing; it’s the promise and the reward is the follow through. In the world of homeschooling, we might use incentives to urge our children on in doing a particularly difficult assignment, or more broadly, to learn a difficult concept (like times tables or learning to read). When they succeed, they get the reward.

The incentive and reward “required” will vary from child to child. I’ve talked before about how when our children read their first chapter book (whether a novel or a nonfiction book like a biography), we get them a trophy of some sort. Our oldest child was all about Ancient Egypt when he was learning to read, so his trophy is a replica of a mummy’s sarcophagus (head only). Our second child, who read his first chapter book at about the same time as his older brother, really liked learning about medieval times. His trophy is a bookend of a knight in shining armor. Our third child was a late reader, just like our first child. He loves literature – he just prefers to listen to it rather than reading it. So even though he didn’t really read, he had plenty of exposure to good books, and therefore had a favorite author. So his trophy was an autographed book from that author. The incentive was always “when you read a chapter book, you’ll get a trophy.” The reward was the trophy itself.

Incentives and rewards aren’t just for kids, though. As adults, we also relish in the encouragement of our spouses and friends. Just think about how good it feels when you’ve spent a long time cleaning your home, and your husband returns from work or a day out and notices. He tells you, “The house looks good today. Thank you.” That’s a fantastic feeling! Without even necessarily doing it on purpose, he has given you encouragement and reward all in one little statement.

What about in homeschooling? I know that some of the best rewards I get as a homeschooling mom is when my children are really learning well. And enjoying their time with me. I love to see their eyes light up when they learn a new concept, or when something finally clicks. Reading is the biggest one for me. When my children finally understand that all those funny little squiggles they’ve seen everywhere (letters) work together to make words, and they are able to decipher those squiggles and understand the words for the first time… those are my favorite homeschool moments, by far.

So today, let me finish up by offering you just a tiny bit of encouragement.

You are a good mom, even on the days you don’t feel like one. Even when the days feel impossible to navigate, you can do it. Your children are grateful to be home with you rather than in a public school, even if they tell you they aren’t.

You are enough.

Blessings,

 

 

This post is part of the 2021 Homeschool Review Crew Not-Back-To-Homeschool blog hop. Click any of the links below to read more posts on this topic.



Speed Drills for Math Practice (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

One of the biggest setbacks to a “regular” school schedule is the possibility of losing ground over summer break. This is especially true with math and reading, though reading is easy enough to keep practicing. But math can be a lot harder to stay motivated to work on when it’s “off time.” This is especially true if your student has only recently mastered a new concept – like multiplication or division facts. Math Essentials has an answer for that, though: Math Essentials Speed Wheel Drills! We received all three of the titles in this series: Addition, Multiplication, and Division.

A collage showing the three book covers, the three book spines, and a completed wheel drill

What is a Speed Wheel Drill?

A completed +1 Wheel DrillWhile you may not have heard of a Speed Wheel Drill, once I describe it, you’ll understand where the name came from because it really is exactly what it sounds like. On each page of the consumable workbooks, there are a series of circles. Each circle (wheel) has two smaller circles within it, and a series of spokes coming out. In the very center is a large number (3, for example). In the center section are a series of other numbers, a bit smaller than the center number (7, 5, 2, etc). Your student simply uses the center number as the “base” for each math problem, and then does the specified operation (depending on which book you have), writing the answer in the outer circle. So, with 3 as the center number and 7 as one of the middle numbers, in the multiplication book the child would write 21. Next to the 5, he would write 15. The 2 would get a 6. And so on.

There are a couple of different ways you can use the “speed” portion of the Speed Wheel Drills.

  • Don’t use a timer at all, and just do them as Wheel Drills
  • Time your child as he completed a wheel. Then see if he can best himself on the next one, and the next one.
  • Set a stopwatch and see how far your child gets in the set amount of time. Next time, see if he can complete more of the wheel in the same amount of time.

How We Used the Workbooks

The three workbooks stacked on top of one another, fanned out.My older boys are well versed in their math facts, so I didn’t bother giving these to them. Because we received all three books, which are ideal for different ages, I set up Grasshopper (9, heading into 4th grade) with the Multiplication book and Dragonfly (5, K) with the Addition book. We set the Division book aside for later.

Grasshopper has gone through all of the multiplication lessons in his math curriculum, and has done quite well with them. But that curriculum only has a single lesson for each set of the times tables, and that’s just not enough practice to really master such an important concept. Adding in Speed Wheel Drills has been perfect. We started without the “speed” aspect, just to see how he’d do, and he did pretty well. As I could tell that he was getting quicker with each successive wheel, I introduced a timer. I opted to use the second method that I described before with him. It was great to watch him continue to get faster and faster throughout the summer. And Grasshopper is a kid who loves to best himself, so this type of workbook is perfect for him.

Dragonfly, being just 5, is reasonably new to addition. He’s done a little bit here and there, but his math up to this point has been primarily number recognition, patterns, colors, shapes… you know, Kindergarten stuff. He’s very good at that now, though, which means it’s time to begin some of the more difficult things. We used the Speed Wheel Drills Addition book as a gentle introduction to adding for him. He was a bit confused about how the wheels worked until I explained it to him, and then he thought it was such a great idea. He warmed to the concept very quickly, although he got frustrated with trying to write the numbers himself. We found that they worked better almost as oral drills, and I wrote his answers down for him. We haven’t timed him at all yet.

Opinion and Final Thoughts

Math Essentials Speed Wheel Drills are fantastic resources for students. You can use them during the summertime like we did, or as a supplement to any math curriculum. My kids thrived with them, and I can’t recommend them enough.

Make sure to click through to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew think of the books!

Blessings,

Beginning of the School Year Memories

a chalk board with fall leaves around the edge. the title of the post is written in a chalkboard font in the middle.

The beginning of the school year is a special time for students, regardless of what “kind” of school they go to. If you go on Instagram anytime this month, you’ll begin seeing loads and loads of back to school posts. In my feed, a couple of these traditions come to mind; these moms post the same thing every year and it really sticks in my mind. The first is a mom that has a huge frame that she has each of her children hold around their face each fall and spring. It must a dry erase or something, because she writes each child’s grade on it, and it’s different for each of her kids (she also has 5, like me). The second one is a mom who is also a public school teacher. She takes a photograph of her son in the fall and again in the spring standing in front of the school’s sign where he attends. It’s pretty neat to get the same picture nine months apart and see how much taller her son has gotten!

We’ve never really done anything like that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a good idea. There are some things from my own elementary school days that I remember having done (mostly from 3rd grade – I must have had a great teacher that year!). Here’s an idea to do with your children/students. At the beginning of the school year, get a manila envelope and have your student write on it: (Name)’s Time Capsule. Do not open until 2046. (Of course, you can choose a different year; I chose that one because it’s 25 years from now.) All throughout the school year, save samples of their work and tuck it into the envelope. Not everything, but a reasonable sample. This will show how much they learn and develop their skills over the course of the school year.

Maybe take some white paper and tempera or acrylic paint and have students create a hand and/or footprint page. This would be a good basic anatomy lesson – I remember being in third grade and not understanding why I had a huge “indent” in my footprint (and trying everything I could think of to fill it in to no avail). Now I know that’s the arch. It would have been nice to have had some sort of explanation for that as a child. Do this again at the end of the school year to show physical growth. When your student opens that envelope as an adult, they will cherish at least some of the papers you’ve tucked inside. I know when my mom gave me my third grade time capsule a few years back, I was excited to see everything in there – the only thing I remembered having done was the footprint. Everything else in there was a surprise.

Last month, I wrote about learning styles. Have you ever considered your students’ learning styles? There’s a personality quiz online that you can have your child take. Garnering information about their specific learning style would be a fantastic way to get the school year off to an amazing start, because you could tailor their work to their specific learning style.

If you’ve chosen your homeschool curriculum already, then you have an idea of what you’ll be teaching this year. How about doubling down on that “before and after” concept this way: Choose something related to one of your year long studies and have your children create something at the beginning of the school year (a world map if you’re doing a heavy geography study, for example) and then recreate that same assignment at the end of the year. Make sure to save the one from now so you can show them how much they learned!

What are some of your favorite “beginning of the school year” memory makers?

Blessings,

 

 

This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop. Click on any of the links below to read more posts on this topic!

 



Dyslexia Gold (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Grasshopper was slow to read. He fought me tooth and nail for a long time. But finally, I told him it was “time.” He was able to read well enough that he had to read a novel out loud to me. It was slow going at first. For a really long time. But as he read every day, he got better and better. Now, he reads everything in sight. I don’t have to force him anymore. And he even (claims to) like reading!

To further his quick studying in reading comprehension, we signed up to review Dyslexia Gold. This is an online program that’s designed for students who struggle with reading, whether it’s due to dyslexia or for another reason. Grasshopper’s reading took off sometime between when we signed up for the review and when we actually started using the program, so the timing was a bit unfortunate for us. That said, he did learn quite a few things from the program, and I’ll tell you all about them!

The program has four main parts, but after a placement test Grasshopper was only assigned three of them. (The one he didn’t get was Reading Unlocked, which I reviewed last year with Dragonfly. We had amazing success with that program! Read that review for a more in-depth look at that program.) Let’s discuss each of the parts of Dyslexia Gold that we used in more detail.

Engaging Eyes is designed to help your child learn to focus. People with dyslexia often have trouble with their eyes, and that inability to focus easily leads to the words “swimming” in front of them. The Engaging Eyes vision training in Dyslexia Gold is done with a pair of 3D glasses. Students wear the glasses and then shoot the targets using the arrows and spacebar on the keyboard. They have to not only aim the shooter, but also make sure it’s on the same plane in order to hit their target. This game was the most fun for Grasshopper. In fact, he had so much fun with it that everyone else in the family gave it a try at one point or another!

Fluency Builder teaches a child who already knows how to read, how to read well. It has a total of 50 lessons, and each one focuses on a specific phonemic sound. It also teaches children to differentiate sounds that might be similar to an early reader (|f| and |v| for example). Each lesson is broken up into a variety of activities that really drive home the phonics aspect of reading. There is also a passage for children to read and answer comprehension questions.

Spelling Tutor is where I saw the biggest improvement in my son. This part of the program has the child read a passage. Then they are to write the passage down, one sentence at a time. When they’re done, they click “mark” and are able to self-grade their work. If they get everything right, great! If they get anything wrong, that word goes on their “practice” list. The program remembers which words the student needs to practice more, and it gives those words to them many times over the course of the program. At the point the child gets a problem word correct, it moves down on the list and is shown less frequently.

Dyslexia Gold also includes a Times Tables tutor, but we’re swimming in math practice right now, so we didn’t use that.

As mentioned, we didn’t end up “needing” the program as much as I thought we would when I agreed to review it. But Grasshopper had amazing success with the spelling portion, and I’m glad we had access to that to help him understand how to get better at spelling.

Make sure to read more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew website!

Blessings,

Opting for a GED

Ballet Boy, for many reasons that he and Will discussed, decided to pursue a GED (formally “Tests for General Educational Development”). The primary reason is that the two of them thought a “homeschool diploma” wouldn’t be taken seriously by people in the real world. Today, Ballet Boy and I want to talk a little bit about the GED process in our state.

A test on a desk with a teen's hand holding a pencil hovering above the page

Disclaimer: While it seems as though the basics are the same from state to state, do not take our words for facts nationwide. Always do your own research and choose the best path for you, as well as making sure you follow all the laws and guidelines in your specific state.

The GED is a series of four tests, designed to determine whether a student has enough knowledge to “be done” with their schooling without technically “graduating.” You have to be 18 in order to take the tests, and each one is administered separately, with their own fees ($38 each in our state; if a retest is required, the fee is slightly lower). The tests are available for in-person or online, though the price is slightly higher online starting September 1st (in most states). If you take the test in person, there is no practice testing required, but to do it online you must have passed a practice test within the last 60 days. Some states require that you live in the state to take their test, but not all of them do (ours doesn’t). Make sure to find out whether the state you wish to test in has residency requirements or not before you commit. Additionally, not all states offer the test (Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Tennessee, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and West Virginia), so if you live in one of those states, you need to either take the test online or travel to a state that allows non-residents to test.

With those basics discusses, I will now pass the torch over to Ballet Boy.

The trick with being homeschooled is that it can be pretty difficult to keep track of things like credits. That hasn’t mattered before, but seeing as I’m 18 in October, graduating – or at least finishing – starts to be a necessity. We have done so many different curricula over the years through the Review Crew that it would be much too complicated to go through them all to count up the credits. Instead, I talked with my dad and together we decided that it would be a good idea for me to take the GED test instead of getting a traditional high school diploma. Since I’m not planning on going to college, this seemed like a reasonable way to wrap things up. 

The test itself is made up of four separate exams in a variety of subjects. These smaller tests are:

Science, Social Studies, Math (always math lol), and Language Arts. 

You need to be at least 18 (16 under very specific circumstances, such as being an emancipated minor) to take the test in my state and the fee is around $150 for the whole test. You are not required to take all four tests at the same time. To qualify for the GED you cannot be enrolled in school. The GED tests are scored on a 100-299 scale and scoring is as follows: 100-144-below passing; 145-164-high school equivalency score; 165-174-college-ready score; 175-200-college-ready + college credit score. And if you score 299 I’m pretty sure they ask you to be the president. 

They say you should plan on the prep taking three months to pass the test but they also say that 65% of students fail the test and have to take it again. I’m taking my time and checking all my boxes before I take the exams. The only subject that concerns me is math, so I’m going through a program called Triad Math (which, ironically enough started out as a review product) and brushing up on everything. I also have an ACT prep course that I’m starting, and there’s tons of help on YouTube to fill in all the gaps. So for anyone reading this who’s planning on taking the GED there is no one specific way to prep. Look at the subjects, work on what you’re not confident in till you are, and I’ll meet you on the other side 😉

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

Ballet Boy

Khan Academy for High School

My oldest son decided to go the GED route (which I’ve mentioned before). But I’m encouraging my second son, Scorpion, to pursue a homeschool diploma instead. He’ll be starting 9th grade in September, so we’re in full on planning mode now. In my internet searches, I found Khan Academy. I’ve heard of them before, but never really looked into them very much. But when I saw that they have an app, I knew that it just might be a good fit for my technology-loving, visual learner!

This post will likely feel a bit like a review, but it’s completely unsponsored. I just want to talk about our high school plan for Scorpion, to both share with you a potentially new curriculum as well as give us some accountability moving forward.

the app icon for khan academyI signed up for an account before I ever told him about the idea of using this program, and from there I was able to easily create a student account for him. I used the website to go over all the different options for classes, and then I assigned him the subjects I want him to take. We’re on summer break now, but he spent a couple of weeks in the app to get a good feel for it so that it would be smooth sailing when school starts in the fall. Here’s what he’ll be working on.

9th Grade Reading and Vocabulary

This course is still in beta mode, which means they’re potentially working out some kinks. It also redirects to the website because of that, rather than showing up right in the app. The course has three main components: Borders, Social Psychology, and The Apocalypse. Each of the sections follows the same basic outline, but with a different emphasis (fiction vs poetry vs informational text for example).

Grammar

It’s no secret that I’m a grammar nerd. I live for good grammar, and it’s one of my favorite subjects to teach my kids. I even do professional copy editing for Will’s book design business. But I care more about making sure that commas are properly placed and shouldn’t be a semicolon instead, rather than keeping track of all the nuanced and advanced concepts of high school grammar. So I am more than happy to let Khan Academy take over the teaching here!

The Grammar course has 10 sections, and each one has between 600 and 1300 “mastery points.” Students work through all the different topics, earning their points to pass the class. It starts easy, with things your student should have learned in elementary school (nouns and verbs). By the end of the course, they’re into more complicated things like “syntax: sentences and clauses.” It even includes a style section at the very end of the course!

a screenshot showing the different courses my son will be taking this school year.

High School Biology

This course is also in beta mode, but it works in the app. At the time of this writing, it has two main sections: Matter and Energy in Ecosystems and Interactions in Ecosystems. Each of those sections, when you click through, has a fair number of lessons. Scorpion hasn’t delved very much into this course, but it looks to be a good balance between videos and digital worksheets.

Pre-Algebra

I have a hard time remembering sometimes that my kids are not the same as me – or each other. Scorpion has always been better at reading and literature than math. He has always struggled with math, which is why he’s taking pre-algebra in ninth grade instead of seventh. (I know that sounds like a slight on him, and it’s not. It’s just that pre-algebra in seventh grade was the only reference point I had for the subject until recently because that’s when I took it.)

This class works pretty much identically to grammar, with mastery points. The difference, of course, is that the subject is numbers and not words. I’m excited for him to get a good grasp on these concepts this year!

US Government and Civics

This is another mastery points course. It has a fraction the number of mastery points available, so I think it’s a semester course. It covers everything needed for a good foundation in government: foundations of American democracy, interactions among branches of government, civil liberties and civil rights, citizenship, American political ideologies and beliefs, political participation, and more.

World History (1750-)

There were two or three world history courses on Khan Academy to choose from, so I let Scorpion choose what he wanted to do, and he picked 1750-modern times. Again, this course works on a points system. There are a total of 9 main headings, and each one moves through 3-6 subheadings.

Pixar in a Box

Animation is Scorpion’s passion. He has his own YouTube channel where he posts original animations he’s made. So for his elective this year, I found found this Pixar course for him to take. I’m excited to see how much he learns from the course, and especially to see how well he likes it once he gets into it. It will be neat to see how he takes what he learns in this course and applies it to his own animations over the course of the school year.

As I mentioned before, Scorpion has done just a little bit of the work so far, enough to get a feel for the program before we dive in fully next academic year. Here are his thoughts so far:

Khan Academy is an online learning platform for kids of all ages. So far I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and I’m loving it so far. It has a very user friendly interface, and easy to complete lessons. The lessons take about five minutes to complete and are fun and not too difficult. Khan Academy is a perfect choice for children and teenagers alike.

What’s your plan for homeschooling high school? I’d love to hear in the comments what you are doing/have done.

Blessings,

Exploring Different Learning Styles (and how my kids learn best)

I have four school-age kids right now, and they each have different strengths. I want to take some time today to talk about each of them, specifically in the realm of how they learn and how I homeschool them based on those learning styles, in the hopes that this exploration might be helpful to someone else out there.

Ballet Boy (17 years old)

My oldest son took me a bit by surprise when he was starting school. My husband and I both have academic tendencies, so I expected our children to also veer that way naturally. Boy was I in for a shock! Ballet Boy didn’t really want anything to do with school, and looking back I’m not sure I blame him. All he knew was playing with Mom. He’d never been to daycare, so the sudden change from “little kid at home” to “you’re 5 now, it’s time for school” was a shock to his little system. And back then, I didn’t have half the knowledge I do now about different learning styles. I figured all kids would benefit from a traditional education. Because I went to public school, and only knew kids who also had, I had no idea there could be more to homeschooling than basic lists of things to accomplish. Due to my inexperience combined with my fear of homeschool not being “enough,” we got a stack of workbooks and I taught him the material. He filled out the answers, and we called it a day.

But he was miserable.

See, he wasn’t (and still isn’t) a traditional learner. My oldest son works best when he can hear the lessons rather than seeing them. He can listen to audio books and dramas and retain way more information than when he reads that same book. For this reason, things like Heirloom Audio productions make fantastic history resources for him. He did well with Apologia’s audio textbook for science when he was small.

If you have a child who struggles with reading, maybe try an audio approach instead. (And this is not me saying that reading isn’t important. I believe with all my heart that it is, and everyone should learn to read when they are young. But knowing that there are options besides just books is also helpful.)

Scorpion (14 years old)

My second child could not be more different than his older brother. When Ballet Boy started 1st grade when he was 7 (compulsory school age in our state was 7-18 back then; it’s 6-18 now), Scorpion wanted to do school too. He was only 4 at the time, but we decided to humor him and got some kindergarten workbooks (this was back when we still thought that was the best method for every child). He did really well with them. I didn’t even have to teach him to read. He just randomly picked it up when he was tiny. When he was 5 and Ballet Boy was 8, they were at roughly the same reading level. We had just finished the school year and signed the boys up for summer reading at the library. We told them that if they each read a chapter book, we would give them a monetary prize in addition to whatever they earned from the library. (But the goal wasn’t optional.) They both did it, but Scorpion managed it with a more difficult book than Ballet Boy.

When he was just 5 years old, he read Charlotte’s Web by himself.

Ever since then, he’s been a self starter who thrives with visual learning. He can read all the books in the world and retain everything he reads. Video lessons are great for him because he can see the visual aids and understand what’s being taught. And he’s a self starter. Now that he’s entering high school, I can give him a list (something he can see), and he will just work through it with very little intervention from me. So I recommend for the visual learners that you embrace that fully – give them things they can look at, read, and process on their own terms. You’ll likely have a very independent future student!

Grasshopper (9 years old)

Grasshopper gets a lot of face time on this blog, mostly because he’s at the age where there are so many cool things to teach him. He really loves school now, but it wasn’t always that way. See, when he was just starting, he struggled with reading. I thought it was going to be a repeat of Ballet Boy’s early years. And in many ways, it was. He didn’t read well until this past school year. He fought me many days, and always tried to get some sort of early reprieve from school or better yet, a day off for no reason.

But now that he’s older, I can see that he mostly thrives with one-on-one time. That’s not always possible, but often times it is. If I can distract the younger brothers for a bit of time (an episode of PJ Masks, or a game idea with their toys will usually do the trick!), I can give him 20 or 30 minutes of specialized time to focus on learning. We do a lot of his lessons this way, a little bit at a time, amongst the brothers also needing me. This also works with his attention span (and jealousy of the youngers getting to play while he works). Work a little, play with your brothers. Work a bit more, then play again. It makes the day a little bit longer, but not terribly so. And it gives him the individualized time he needs as well as periodic breaks to lessen the load.

Dragonfly (5 years old)

My fourth son is a lot like Scorpion. He’s desperate to learn, and while he also wants one-on-one time, he does really well with digital learning. Preschool apps (like Reading Eggs or LeapFrog) are totally his jam. He could do those all day long. He was born into a digital era, and he totally embraces it. Other than unlocking the iPad, he can do those types of lessons entirely on his own, which is both really helpful and a little bittersweet. Of course, I don’t let him do only digital things – he reads physical books and works with paper and pencil/crayon too – but it’s super convenient to have them available for him. And I don’t doubt for one minute that he’ll be able to switch to a computer pretty easily when he’s older and ready to take the next technological leap in his teen years and beyond.

What types of learning styles do you deal with in your homeschool?

Blessings,