Virtual School Lessons

This year, we tried Florida Virtual School (aka FLVS)–the online public school program run by the state of Florida–for a couple of courses for my teens with mixed results. Well, they have both earned good grades in the classes taken, but we’ve all learned something about public school courses–not just how to take them but their quality and the huge impact they’ve had on our homeschooling.
Continue reading Virtual School Lessons

How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

Every year around this time, I ask my kids about what they’d like to study next year. The answers have varied a great deal but they’ve always made our studies more interesting for both the kids and me, and I know they learn more when they are fully engaged in what we’re studying. It can take a bit of creativity and work to figure out how to include their interests, but the rewards have been great.

For example, one year my son who was about ten years old at the time, asked if he could study Star Wars. My initial response was, “No, we can’t study Star Wars. Continue reading How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

How’d You Do Physical Education (aka P.E.)?

We’ve done a lot for P.E. this year. Most of it has come from activities done with our homeschool support group in casual group activities. Some from things we’ve done on our own for fun. In this area, we’ve had a lot of variety this year mostly because of our homeschool support group that’s grown more organized, with more volunteers, over the years.

Our group’s soccer meets twice a month usually for at least an hour and a half, though often it’s closer to two hours. A homeschooling dad coaches, having them do warm-up exercises, a variety of drills, and then they play the game. The coach volunteers his time so soccer is free to members of our group; our group offers a variety of similar activities for free because we ask all of our parents to volunteer in some capacity over the course of the year. I really appreciate this as our funds are limited and I’m not a sports person who’d feel comfortable teaching a variety of sports. Soccer is casual, with no uniforms or requirements other than coming dressed in appropriate clothes for running the field. The kids’ skills have greatly improved over the years, and now they’ll often start up their own casual soccer game at park meetings.

Similarly, another dad in our group ran a Golf Club and a Tennis Club that each met monthly. In the Golf Club, we’ve met at a public golf course and the kids have learned to use the driving range and practice putting on the putting green. They’re working up to playing a round of golf together. Clubs purchased from a thrift store have kept this sport inexpensive and I like the idea that my kids will have a working knowledge of golf, even if they aren’t passionate about the sport, so that if their future involves someone who wants to chat about business over a golf game, they won’t be totally out of their element. Likewise, for the Tennis Club, we’ve used rackets bought from the thrift store to minimize the cost. When a neighbor was cleaning out his garage, he gifted us with a ball holder and a plethora of tennis balls; in my experience, it really helps to chat with the neighbors about what the kids are doing.  A mom in our group ran a fitness club that met twice a month the first half of the year with calisthenics and lessons in nutrition and other aspects of health.  Now a teen is running a twice-monthly basketball fundamentals clinic. Since he’s being scouted by college basketball teams, he knows his stuff and has helped the other kids learn a lot. When all of these activities are put together, the kids have had some form of organized physical activity at least once a week, sometimes twice, for one to two hours at a time.

In a local public high school P.E. class, which is usually about 45 minutes long, a good portion of the time is used for changing clothes, showering, and taking roll. So two hours a week of organized physical activity is about what a public school P.E. course would offer. With the activities listed above, my kids are doing close to that amount of activity, but they do a lot of other activities as well.

My son wanted to learn archery, so together, he and I went to a 4-H training session and became 4-H certified instructors (well, Junior Instructor in my son’s case). Together with some other moms in our homeschool support group, we started a 4-H Archery Club for other homeschoolers. The 4-H group gives us insurance, some equipment, and a place to meet free of charge. We meet twice a month at the local fairgrounds and have been teaching about 20 students, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, to shoot with bows and arrows at targets.

If you throw in the biking, running around at the park, swimming, and other activities, along with some lessons in health and safety, we’ve done a lot more than the 120 hours that are usually cited as the minimum for earning one high school credit. If you add in all the P.T. (physical training) my son’s been doing with his Young Marines group and the workouts he’s done on his own, he’s definitely earned more than one credit in P.E. this year, but one credit of P.E. seems enough for the year to me.

Cheryl

 

Mock Trial Fun

Tomorrow morning, we–my children and several others from our local homeschool support group–will put on our fourth annual mock trial. In the first mock trial, we used a pre-planned script we found online (prepared by a group of lawyers for use in educating students and available at no cost), but over the years as we’ve all learned from the process, we’ve grown more daring and have created our own.
This year’s mock trial is based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Willow Woodcutter is accused of the murder of Mr. Wolffe. Was she a heroine who saved lives by killing a fiend? Or did she misjudge him and attack him without cause because of her own bias against wolves? Depends on which team of lawyers you believe. (They weren’t sure about the use of a fairy tale in the beginning, but they’ve had a lot of fun with it. Hopefully the actual trial will be full of the drama exhibited in today’s rehearsal.)
Our players have planned their strategies, prepared their speeches, made props (including a box of Puffs–the brand of tissues prescribed to Mr. Wolffe who suffered from terrible allergies and short-term memory loss per one team of lawyers–and a police report about Mr. Wolffe’s previous crimes) and are ready to go. They’ve learned some of the basics of how trials are organized and the evidence allowed; tomorrow, they’ll demonstrate what they’ve learned and include a number of other children who may choose to just watch or to participate as members of the jury. Our mock trials have all been held in the historic courtroom in a local museum and have been a lot of fun as well as great learning experiences not only demonstrating an aspect of how our government works, but giving the children a chance to practice public speaking and theater skills.

Cheryl

Shakespeare Club

Shakespeare festival anonymous
At our Shakespeare festival: My daughter in a costume showing off her video made using Lego bricks that was her own version of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.

Three years ago, a mom in our group started a Shakespeare Club geared to kids of a wide variety of ages–from kindergartners to high school students. At first only our two families were involved, but I loved the idea of doing Shakespeare together. I’ll admit it–I hated Shakespeare when I was in school. I couldn’t understand much of what he wrote and dreamed of finding an interpreter to turn his words into English that I could understand. But as an adult, Continue reading Shakespeare Club

Making Math Relevant (and perhaps fun, too)

Algebra Club? That will never work.

Or so I was told by a few people when I suggested the idea a few years ago. I envisioned a club, not a class, for homeschooled students; a supplement to studying algebra rather than a main source for learning algebra. We wouldn’t have a textbook, homework to grade, nor any quizzes and tests. Instead I envisioned this as a way to make algebra more fun by adding a social element to it, some bits of history trivia and stories, some hands-on activities, manipulatives and games that would work better with a group of children than with just my two teens alone. These were the parts of teaching math that I loved when I was a classroom teacher, but Continue reading Making Math Relevant (and perhaps fun, too)

Unconventional World History Lessons

History textbooks can be an easy way to teach history, but they can be rather dry and boring and each comes with its own slant or bias. I want my children to have a broad understanding of the world and how our society became what it is today. I want them to know about their own country, but I also want them to have an understanding of other people and other cultures. After all, how can we expect Continue reading Unconventional World History Lessons

When You Can’t Just Say No

“We’ll just tell him no,” my husband said. “He can’t join the military; it’s too dangerous.”

“You do realize that when he turns eighteen, he can join even if we say no?” I countered.

For years, our son has been enamored with the military. In addition to all the books he reads on history of the military and history of weaponry, I’ve found library books hidden under his bed with titles like “How to Survive Basic Training.” I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with Continue reading When You Can’t Just Say No

Homeschooling During a Hurricane

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom to set our own schedule based on our own priorities. This freedom is so important when disaster looms.

This past week, the meteorological tracking models predicted that Hurricane Matthew was about to strike very close to our home in south Florida–so close that if they were wrong by even a few miles, we’d be at ground zero. We’ve been through a few hurricanes previously. When Wilma hit, we had furniture piled against the front door and we pushed against that furniture for what seemed like forever as we battled to keep the storm from pushing our front doors open; we later discovered that a couple of our neighbors had not been able to prevent theirs from flying open. During Frances, a huge tree in our backyard was partially uprooted and hung over our house, threatening to crash into it until we found a neighbor Continue reading Homeschooling During a Hurricane