Thursday, 15 November 2012

Every Single Thing is a Learning Opportunity

I've heard that phrase so many times in the Home educating community, how there is a lesson in everything, and simply having your children 'do life' with you, and answering their many 'why' questions is all the education they need.

This week we all got a horrible bug. Think vomiting, temperature, and snot so bad that I had to change the little ones bed linen because she wok up with it everywhere. If I'd known it was going to be like this I would have bought shares in kleenex ultrabalm.

However, as I said, there is a learning opportunity in here somewhere. As I was burning some tissues, my son asked me why I was making fire when we were already feeling hot (I was actually feeling quite shivery, but his assumption was that if he felt hot I must be too). I explained that we didn't want the viruses in the tissues to be sat around the house.

'Viruses like streptococcus?' (his current favourite strain of bacteria - do schooled children have those?)
'Well streptococcus is a bacteria.' I explained. 'A virus is a little bit different. Remember?' We did a lap book on this quite recently.
'Oh, well what's this virus called?'

I said I wasn't sure, but that I suspected it to be influenza. I don't feel like that was too misleading. After all, it's not like we have a lab I could check our snot in and actually find out, and flu symptoms fit. Obviously, you can't just say something like that to a four year old without more questions arising though.

I pulled google up on the iPad (gosh  I love it!) and we searched for images of influenza. First we looked at actual photos, then we looked at some diagrams.

Diagram of the Flu Virus
Actually, he had some really intelligent questions, and I started explaining what each part of the virus was for (thankfully I had google open on my iphone too), what a 'lipid' is and why hemagglutinin is like the spikes on the stickle bricks.

So even a 'sick day' turns into an educational day at home, which makes it pretty hard to fill out our registers for our homeschool co-op. When would you ever use an 'Absent' or 'Illness' code?


On a completely unrelated note, Cosmo swam five metres on his back in his swimming lesson today! exciting times!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

IPad Education

I'm in awe of people who managed to homeschool before the internet. How on earth anyone got through lesson planning without Pinterest is completely beyond me.

I've said before how disenchanted I am with our public library. It's really big, and I know we are much more fortunate than many who live in small villages. The story time group is fantastic, but the books available to children, particularly early readers, is devastatingly lacking. Anything that would even vaguely challenge his reading ability seems to be about vampires, or witches, or completely inappropriate relationships (he recently brought home a book about a kid with a crush on his teacher. We didn't get past the first chapter).

With this in mind I'm so excited to be ordering some books from Lamplighter publishing to add to our home collection, (in no small part thanks to their current offer of buying a $100 certificate and getting a second one free!) but the reality is although my children love books, right now the iPad is where it's at.

I've only had it for a month, so maybe it's a novelty thing, but I feel like my homeschool life just got a whole lot easier.

So this post is, for the most part, dedicated to how we use it - although some of these uses worked fine on my iPhone too, it's all so much easier on the pad ;0)

1. Record Keeping 
There are tonnes of free apps, but my personal favourite is Evernote. We used it long before we got the iPad, and there is a desktop download, web based page and phone app that you could use instead (as I did for the last two years).
The most useful thing about it is storing examples of work. I take two seconds to snap some photos for the worksheets the children have just completed, tag them (subject, child) and they are automatically stored by date. Very useful when it comes to looking back through for end of term reports!

There is also a recording facility, so I've recorded the children doing things like reciting a new memory verse (which will be totally cute to listen to in years to come).
I also use the note taking facility to jot down any developmental leaps (walking, reading, swam 5m etc...) and once again Evernote auto tags the date and, if you like, location. Fab.

2. BrainPop
Brainpop is brilliant, we are using the free version of brain pop jr without an account currently. It's brilliant and there is a new video every week. The videos are cute, subtitled and have two quizzes on the content at the end (easy and hard) as well a joke and a relevant comic strip. The best part (according to Cosmo) is that there's a little leaderboard so you can try and beat your score on the quizzes by taking them again, and/or compete against a sibling.

3. Montessori geography
We LOVE the Montessori geography apps. There are some free ones (the UK for example) but we have chosen to pay for the European one. Cosmo is happy able to work on this alone and is learning to identify all the countries in Europe, not only by name and location, but also by shape. I'm learning as he does!
Eventually we'll upgrade to the other continents, but right now this one has plenty of content to keep us busy.
The Montessori pre-language opposites app is also brilliant for lychee.

4. Starfall ABCs
It's no secret that we are massive fans of the starfall website and subscribe to more starfall too. The app isn't free, and it also doesn't have all the content of the full site, but it's perfect for little ones who can't use a mouse yet to explore limited content. Lychee happily spent 30 minutes playing on it whilst I had a church meeting last week. For £1.99 it's been totally worth it.

5. Little writer
Lychee needs some serious help with this app, but she loves it.
I would have thought it was beneath Cosmo, but he seems to really enjoy it too, and it's encouraging him to form letters and numbers correctly (instead of two circles for an eight, for example) so I'm not complaining.

6. FlashCardlet
A great little app that allows you to create sets of flash cards for memory work. Easy to set up and easy for the kids to use. Cosmo loves flipping through his memory verses from Plant's Grown Up.

So those are my current favourites, obviously I'm sure we'll discover more as we go, but that's it for now.

Do you have an iPad/iPhone other electronic device you use for homeschooling? What apps do you recommend?

This post is linked up at noordinarybloghop

Monday, 5 November 2012

Half term


So we've just had half-term, but with this being a homeschool the learning never stops!!

This holidays we signed Cosmo up for his first ever holiday-club with Wilstead evangelical church and he had a fantastic time. It was for two hours every morning and he came home having learned new songs and games, as well as a memory verse.

There were some competitions, including boat building, for homework and he worked so hard to create a boat that actually floated - experimenting with gluing coins and pebbles to counter weight his beautiful sail (those are ants that he drew on it), and covering the whole base in cling film to make sure no water would get in it.

There were also homework sheets, with word searches and crosswords and he won gold medals for completing those too.

At the end of the week there was a medal ceremony and he was presented with a certificate and a sticker book which he is very proud of.

He did miss two days of holiday club as we went to stay at my mothers to spend a little time with my sister who is about to emigrate half-way around the world :o(

We had a great time and celebrated a cousins birthday with a family trip to gulliver's land which was obviously a huge hit.

My aunt also stopped by on the second day with a box load of Math resources and games for us and we've been excitedly sorting through them, looking at which ones we'd like to play now and which ones to put in our 'soon' shelf in the school room.

And finally I've spent some time with Lychee on the new iPad (yes! I've finally got one!) and been working on the Montessori pre-language opposites app and starfall ABCs. Both are excellent and I highly recommend them, although it can make it hard to limit screen time as the children get really into the 'work' they are doing.

So that's been our half-term. Did you do anything exciting?