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Posts Tagged ‘homeschool resources’


Hi! I have been away from my blog for far too long, I know. We have been busy, busy, busy (and I am lazy). Dana is currently starting a series of in-depth retesting and re-evaluation at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. We are still homeschooling and still struggling with his severe dysgraphia, which I worry will seriously impact any future academic study success. I am hoping they can help with that.

As we start into his high school years, I find myself balancing our plans between giving him a curriculum that will satisfy a college or technical school (should he decide to go) and providing him with the knowledge and skills that I know will be critical to him for the rest of his life. For some reason, thorough grounding in nutrition (even general health), sex education, and financial literacy seem to receive, at best, only a minor nod in high school requirements. Not to mention other life skills, like shopping, cleaning, etc.. To me, these are possibly the most critically important things for him to learn. Thankfully, since we homeschool, we can cover those. The problem is in finding material to use.

Each year I research online to hopefully identify text books and material that best meets his needs, interests and abilities. When I purchase regular textbooks, I buy them used on eBay or Amazon, usually. In some cases, though, there is just nothing available, or what is available is of low quality or is otherwise unsuitable, or needs to be supplemented. Fortunately, I have found material that is either low cost or free that we are going to try. In some cases, it is in pdf format and must either be used on the computer or Kindle, or be printed out and put in a notebook or bound some way. In some cases, you can actually receive free printed material through the mail and not even pay shipping! In some cases, books are available free as e-books. I will cite some examples which we will be using at some point in the next 4 years.

FREE BOOKS
Financial Literacy: Along with some little books from Bluestocking Press, that seem impressive, we will use some paper back books in a series called “Building Your Future” from The Actuarial Foundation. These 4 award-winning educational books, accompanied by teacher’s guides, are available free on request from the Actuarial Foundation.
(I also purchased “Life Prep for homeschooled teenagers” by Barbara Frank, on Amazon. This book covers a lot of basic skills, including financial)

FREE E-BOOKS
Sex Education:
(Acknowledging the fact that many do not approve of too detailed sex education,(a mistake in my opinion), I will caution you to check the content of these books before sharing them. Since they are free, this is easy to do.)
These books are available in several formats from CK12. I downloaded them to my Kindle, but also have the teacher guides in my computer in pdf format in case I want to print them, or portions of them. Titles include: “Your Changing Body”, “Human Biology- Sexuality”, “Human Biology-Reproduction.” These were written for middle school to high school ages.
Science and More: CK12 also has many more text books, particularly in the sciences, some of which we will likely use. Usually, teacher guides are also available, and sometimes student workbooks can be downloaded. They are all free.

FREE TEXT BOOKS IN PDF FORMAT
Physics – Electricity:
Due to Dana’s strong focus on computers and electricity, we will probably go a bit further than most in his study of those areas. I located a site where you can download free open-source textbooks written by an instructor who was disappointed in the textbooks available for his students, so wrote his own. They are for upper high school or beginning college level. Visit “Lessons in Electric Circuits” to download.
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There is a strong move toward providing college students with downloadable, free textbooks in e-book format. Sometimes these may also be suitable for upper level and/or advanced high school students as well. Check out “Open Access Textbooks“.

I have only scratched the surface here, I am sure. If you have a free resource for high school students, please post a comment to tell us about it!

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I am finally getting around to listing the many homeschool books and supplies that we no longer need on eBay. If you are looking for something, check out the list now and then by clicking HERE. If there is something you are looking for that you think I might have but haven’t yet listed, let me know. I f I have it, I will list it with both a bid and a buy it now price. I really need to clear out some stuff!!

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If you are looking for resources for teaching that don’t cost an arm and a leg and will work for your kids and meet their special interests, I want to share some great freebies I downloaded recently. Just about everyone knows about the many great videos online, like Khan Academy for math, science and more. Here are some links you may or may not know about.
The first two I found through http://www.homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com/ If you don’t belong to this free site, you should.
KISS Grammar grades 1-12: student workbooks and teacher’s guides: http://home.pct.edu/~evavra/KISS.htm
Lessons in electronics (high school-early college level books) http://openbookproject.net//electricCircuits/
( I have found several great teaching/learning texts like the two above that were written by very knowledgeable and experienced teachers/instructors/professors who were so frustrated at the lack of availability of good texts that they ended up writing their own and making them available for free. The two above have since been tested and edited.
Long ago, I purchased the great SuperCharged Science kit with materials and videos on CD. My boy fell in love with the videos and projects/experiments. This freebie will give you a taste of it for summer science fun.
Science Activity Manual and Video collection from Aurora Lipper: http://www.superchargedscience.com/lnc512-1b.htm  (available for a limited time)
I also download lots of free e-books to my Kindle for reading to my boy or having him read. Most are for pleasure reading, but some are history or science. The CK-12 science texts are good. I recently got “Logic to the Rescue” and “Castles and Chemistry” that are stories which encourage and teach thinking skills and the use of logic in an entertaining way. I also got “Charles Dickens’ Children Stories”, “Thomas Alva Edison: American Wizard,”  and a number of classics. Not only are they free, but my boy can also download them to his iPod Touch as well as having them on my Kindle Fire, and both are in color. Even the pdf files from other freebies are readable on these devices. 
Finding freebies requires the same judgment on quality of materials, suitability for learning level, learning style and interests that you should apply when purchasing materials, but at least, if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost any money (except for the ink and paper you may have used to print. I printed the grammar book and spiral bound it.) I have never been one to purchase “school in a box” curricula, but “pick and choose” can be expensive, too. I am spending a lot less these days and getting some great stuff!

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(Since my Reviews page is a bit full, I will start posting them here. That way, each review will be available as a separate page, also.)

  A Personal Experience Perspective 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my 11-year-old grandson has mild Aspergers and is a right-brained learner. He seems to learn best with visual and hands-on material. He also has developed a strong dislike of mathematics because he can’t memorize math facts, no matter how many times we try with different approaches and materials. I finally decided to just move on and trust that he would pick up more of them as he used them. Besides, he understands concepts and can always use a math chart or a calculator. Actually, he often uses other tricks to figure it out.

I have also read comments saying that many children like him actually do better with higher mathematics than with arithmetic. So in the hopes of convincing him that he is not bad at mathematics, I decided to try “Hands-On Equations” (HOE) and jump right into an introduction to algebra.

We started this past summer and are finishing the third, and last, level now. It worked magic! He now likes doing math and even asks if we can do it before other subjects. He is doing well with it, too.

The program includes a DVD, which we tried in the beginning, but he did not like it, so we stopped using it. However, he loves the use of the flat “scale”, which teaches the concept of equality and reinforces the idea that “legal moves” must be performed on both sides to keep the equation balanced. The two-colored markers for unknowns and numbered cubes for positive and negative numbers have helped him to quickly visualize solutions. Sometimes he simply tells me the solution and I have to go through the steps, or ask him to “explain it” to me so I can check him.

The lessons are short and illustrated in color in the book, then a class worksheet is provided for each lesson, with review problems included. The word problems are numerous and he is working word problems that a few moths ago would have totally confused him. I think he is ready to zip through pre-algebra, at least.

Oh, yes, he usually is able to do the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division required in his head, one way or another. Those he has trouble with are just minor problems, not failure experiences anymore.  And his math confidence is restored! (Perfectionism is good in math, but not the effect it can have on self-confidence and attitude towards math.) I highly recommend “Hands-On Equations”!

 Check out the website here. Or see it on Amazon.com.

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Our studies are moving along now, so we want to add some field trips and take advantage of learning activities around us. Fortunately, I have found three that look like fun educational opportunities for Dana.

The first one on the calendar is a science workshop provided free for 6-8 graders (homeschoolers welcome) by Kenyon College, which happens to be very near where we live. The LADS (Learning And Doing Science) session for boys will be from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm, Saturday, October 22. This free session called “Chemistry All Around You” will include”  “KABOOM! Come see the hidden powers of common household items. How can you tell if a liquid has enough acid in it to burn through a table? You don’t want to touch it to find out, but a food in your fridge can tell you. We’ll watch candy blow up, and make and eat delicious instant ice cream. Come learn how chemistry can be cool! Registration will be open from September 1 to October 14, 2011.” If this one goes well, we will also register him for one in February on light particles. For more information, if you are anywhere in Knox County, Ohio, go to: http://www.kenyon.edu/physicslads They already held the first session for girls, but another will come up in March (http://www.kenyon.edu/x58103.xml )

Then, on Saturday, November 5, from noon until 4:00 pm, we will be taking a “Walk In the Past” at Mohican Outdoor School in Butler, Ohio. This is a family event giving the opportunity to experience what life was like in Ohio in the 1800s costing only $5.00 for the whole family. Click here for more info and to download flyer:  http://www.mohicanoutdoorschool.org/events/view/56/169.html No registration required.

On Tuesday, November 15, Dana and his granddad will be attending Mohican’s Fall HOOT (Homeschool Opportunities for Outdoor Training).

The website says: “Join us for the Fall 2011 Session of HOOT!, from 10 am – 2 pm.  Let’s start digging – that is, digging in our mock archaeology dig site!  We will explore the geology of Hemlock Falls, and learn about archaeology during this HOOT! session.  Cost per child: $5.00.  No fee for parents.  Please bring a packed lunch for child and adult, something to drink, and outerwear appropriate for the weather, as we will be outside for most of the class times, rain or shine.  Pre-registration required.”
Click here to register online

Hopefully these will all be great experiences and are all either free or extremely inexpensive. If you don’t live in my neck of the woods, check your own area for great activities. Happy Fall homeschooling!

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It looks like Lua programming is not a good fit for Dana at this time. He needs an approach that allows him to learn by doing from the beginning more than the Lua tutorial allows. Or maybe it is because he doesn’t relate well to an online tutorial that has him linking to several other pages he has to become familiar with before he can actually do the programming. Anyway, I have done a lot of looking and think I have found what he needs.

Phrogram
is a language and program that was originally designed to teach kids ages 10-14, but it works so well that it is even being taught in colleges and universities.

The book on Amazon,”Phrogram Programming for the Absolute Beginner,” says near the beginning, “…Learning how to program by doing is key to becoming a good programmer and learning how to program by creating games just makes the whole process a lot of fun. Since Phrogram is specifically designed as a learning language that emphasizes graphics, animation, and game development, this book’s approach to learning Phrogram programming makes for a perfect match.”

A review on the book by the mother of a boy much like Dana, who also has Aspergers, says it works great for him. Each chapter ends by having the learner create a simple game. They say it also carries over quite well when the student is ready to move on to more complex languages, like C++, etc. This is not true of the drag and drop languages, some of which Dana has done, like Robolab and Scratch. The program you use in the computer is fairly cheap, too, and they give you a free 30 day trial, which is great.

He has also decided that he is not ready to “fly solo,” and still wants me beside him while he learns. Even when he is working on his own, he likes to have me near by to watch and so he can check with me. He says it is mostly because he wants me to learn along with him, and this may be true. He constantly “plays teacher” by asking me questions about what he is doing, even when he is playing games.

In any case, after doing the first simple programming lesson in the book, he decided to explore Phrogram a bit by running some samples provided. He was very impressed by finding one that allows you to control a spaceship in a “3-D” space environment. The idea that he can learn to write the programming for games like that excites him.

Once again, we learn that Dana’s learning style is uniquely his own and he fits no better in the regular unschooling box than he does into traditional schooling! We’ll see how it goes.

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CNN recently posted a video about a study done with students who were referred to a website about the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Reports tell us that many of the kids believed the story, even after they were told it was a hoax. However, contrary to the beliefs and slanted reports in the media, education experts agree that it does not prove that the internet is dangerous or should not be used to gather information. Rather it shows the increasing need to teach students how to critically evaluate information, which even adults need to learn. Many adults also quickly assume that online information is accurate and trustworthy without checking it out.

I found a great website which provides background information and even lesson plans and worksheets to teach both safe internet use and critical evaluation of information found on internet sites. I highly recommend Kids on the Net. I particularly checked out the pages for 9-10 year old and 11-12 year old kids and was very pleased.

“CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of The Three CyberPigs,” an online interactive for ages 9-12, looks like a good place for us to start. The website says, “In this sequel to Privacy Playground…, the three CyberPigs learn some important lessons about authenticating online information and observing rules of netiquette. They also learn how to distinguish between fact and opinion and how to recognize bias and harmful stereotyping in online content.”

“Deconstructing Webpages” for ages 11-12 provides a complete lesson using a real website containing information which should be evaluated. Worksheets are also available for download and printing. Be sure to look for the download link for the complete package in pdf format (in the yellow box on the page).

Other resources on the site provide materials for teaching cyber safety, which I have also addressed more fully in another post.

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